Diabetes Self-Management Blog

Over the years, we’ve reported on various benefits of the so-called Mediterranean diet — a style of eating that focuses on the consumption of healthful monounsaturated fats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, nuts, and legumes, as well as moderate daily consumption of alcohol and a relatively low intake of red meat. In previous studies, this eating pattern has been shown to have wide-ranging benefits, including reduction in the rates of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and some types of cancer. Now, a small new study indicates that the Mediterranean diet, combined with exercise, has another benefit: potentially reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing stops for 10 seconds or more during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times a night. The disorder affects approximately 18 million people in the United States, and has strong links with diabetes: People who have sleep apnea are more than twice as likely as those who don’t to have diabetes, and 50% of men with Type 2 diabetes have sleep apnea.

To determine the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on the symptoms of sleep apnea, researchers from the University of Crete in Greece randomly assigned 40 obese people with the condition to follow either a “prudent” diet or a Mediterranean diet. Participants in both groups were also encouraged to increase their physical activity, mostly by walking for at least 30 minutes a day, and additionally received continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy (a sleep apnea treatment that involves wearing a mask that uses a stream of air to keep the upper airway open during sleep). The participants were monitored during a sleep study that checked for markers of sleep apnea, including activity in the brain, eye movements, and snoring, both at the beginning of the study and again six months later.

The results showed that those following the Mediterranean diet had a reduced number of apneas, or pauses in breathing, during the REM stage of sleep, which accounts for roughly 25% of sleep during the night. Those assigned to the Mediterranean diet group also had a greater adherence to the diet, a greater decrease in abdominal fat, and an increase in physical activity compared to the “prudent” diet group. However, the study did not show an overall improvement in the severity of sleep apnea among those in the Mediterranean diet group.

Lead study author Chrisopther Papandreou, RD, PhD, noted that “Our results showed that the number of disturbances during REM sleep was reduced more in the Mediterranean diet group than the other group. Recent reports have related an increase in disturbances during REM sleep with the risk of developing significant systemic consequences like [Type 2] diabetes.” Papandreou further noted that more studies with larger numbers of participants are necessary to identify the exact relationship between the Mediterranean diet and sleep apnea.

To learn more about the research, read the article “Mediterranean Diet and Exercise Can Reduce Sleep Apnea Symptoms” or see the study’s abstract in the European Respiratory Journal. For more information about sleep apnea, read “Sleep Apnea and Type 2 Diabetes.” To learn more about the Mediterranean diet, click here.

And to try some Mediterranean-inspired dishes, check out the following recipes:

Greek salad
Greek shrimp
Greek-style gyros
Marinated Mediterranean salad


  1. This is fine for people who’s sleap apnea is primarily related to a weight problem, however not everyone who has apnea is overweight. Often the problem can be due to abnormal developent of the throat, jaw, or nasal passages. No diet will help these people with their apnea, although it may be good for their general health.

    Posted by Joe |
  2. We believe that the mediterranean diet can help not only for apnea, which by the way comes from the greek word no air, but on many other diseases like diabetes, altzheimer and others.

    Posted by Andreas Chrysos |

Post a Comment

Note: All comments are moderated and there may be a delay in the publication of your comment. Please be on-topic and appropriate. Do not disclose personal information. Be respectful of other posters. Only post information that is correct and true to your knowledge. When referencing information that is not based on personal experience, please provide links to your sources. All commenters are considered to be nonmedical professionals unless explicitly stated otherwise. Promotion of your own or someone else's business or competing site is not allowed: Sharing links to sites that are relevant to the topic at hand is permitted, but advertising is not. Once submitted, comments cannot be modified or deleted by their authors. Comments that don't follow the guidelines above may be deleted without warning. Such actions are at the sole discretion of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. Comments are moderated Monday through Friday by the editors of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. The moderators are employees of Madavor Media, LLC., and do not report any conflicts of interest. A privacy policy setting forth our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of certain information relating to you and your use of this Web site can be found here. For more information, please read our Terms and Conditions.

Type 2 Diabetes
New Metformin Combination Medicine Approved for Type 2 Diabetes (10/30/14)
Discovering I Had Type 2 Diabetes (10/17/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)
Long Hours at Low-Income Jobs Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk (10/02/14)

Nutrition & Meal Planning
That Gut Feeling: How Bacteria Can Affect Your Weight (10/28/14)
Hype or Healthy? Ezekiel Bread and Whey Protein (10/20/14)
Hype or Healthy? Chia Pudding and Bulletproof Coffee (10/14/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)

Diane Fennell
New Metformin Combination Medicine Approved for Type 2 Diabetes (10/30/14)
FDA Approves Remote Glucose-Monitoring Technology (10/24/14)
Can Grapefruit Juice Prevent Weight Gain, Increase Insulin Sensitivity? (10/16/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)



Disclaimer of Medical Advice: You understand that the blog posts and comments to such blog posts (whether posted by us, our agents or bloggers, or by users) do not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs. The opinions and other information contained in the blog posts and comments do not reflect the opinions or positions of the Site Proprietor.