New technology could help type 2 diabetes patients lose weight in their sleep

People with type 2 diabetes could be helped to lose weight while they sleep with a new treatment method being tested by scientists.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth are seeking volunteers to try out the new system which will see if breathing lower amounts of oxygen (hypoxia) during sleep could lead to weight loss.

The aim of the study is to investigate whether sleeping in special tents creating an environment of lower oxygen in the air is effective at improving blood glucose control and has an impact of weight loss.

Previous evidence has shown that hypoxia can reduce appetite and burn more calories in people who have type 2 diabetes.

Volunteers who take part in the trial from their own homes will sleep in a tent set up by the study team for two 10-day periods.

During one of the periods, oxygen levels will be set to 15%, similar to levels for passengers on an aeroplane or for people living at high altitude.

Dr Ant Shepherd, senior lecturer in the university’s school of sport, health and exercise science, said: “Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that causes blood glucose levels to become too high.

“For many people, it is a long-term condition which can negatively impact their everyday life and put them at a greater risk of developing other serious health complications, such as heart disease or eye problems.

“While it is possible to lose weight and reduce blood glucose levels through changes in diet and increased exercise, there are a range of factors and barriers which make these lifestyle changes difficult for some people to initiate.

“With the number of people living with type 2 diabetes expected to reach 700 million worldwide by 2045, is it vital that we find other successful interventions to help us treat and manage the condition, reducing the cost to the NHS and making people’s day-to-day lives better.”

Throughout the trial, volunteers will be asked to wear smart monitors, keep a food diary and provide blood, urine and stool samples.

They will also have body composition scans and their blood glucose levels tested, to help researchers understand the body’s response to hypoxia.

Dr Shepherd added: “There’s already quite a lot of evidence from other studies which shows that hypoxia improves the control of blood glucose levels and results in weight loss.

“We’re not entirely sure why this happens, but we think it’s likely to be because it helps you burn more calories and appetites become suppressed so that people don’t feel as hungry.”

Trial participant Janet Rennell-Smyth said: “It doesn’t feel claustrophobic and, when you get used to the noise of the machine, it feels no different.

“I’m enjoying participating in the study that may give us, in future, alternate treatments for this disease. I would recommend anyone who is able, to volunteer and help out on this study.”