Biggest Losers

Sunday, May 31, 2009

LOS ANGELES--Obstructive sleep apnea received some prime-time coverage on the latest season of the hit reality show The Biggest Loser.

For its first six seasons, the NBC smash focused on the need for obese people to get psychologically ready to eat healthy, exercise more and lose weight.

This season, the show’s doctors added a forth “pillar of success.” A healthy lifestyle, they said, also depends on detecting and treating sleep disordered breathing. The show promoted a message that “CPAP can be cool for a young person because it is cool to be healthy, and CPAP is one of the things that will get you there,” said Pam Minkley, a Philips Respironics clinical trainer who worked closely with the contestants and the show’s doctor.

Last fall, at the request of show officials, Respironics tested all 22 of this year’s contestants. Sixteen tested positive for sleep-disordered breathing and began using CPAP equipment donated by Respironics, Minkley said.

This season ended May 12.

“It was a great group of people, and there were older contestants who had a lot of co-morbidities associated with OSA: diabetes, hypertension and heart failure,” Minkley said. “Their message to the younger people was to take care of the problem now so you can have a good quality of life.”

About eight million people each week watch The Biggest Loser. The series encourages overweight contestants to shed pounds in a safe way through comprehensive diet and exercise. The person who loses the most weight wins a grand prize of $250,000. This season’s show, The Biggest Loser: Couples, included couples competing against couples.

“We used our vast provider network to support these people on the show and at home,” Minkley said. “It was a great experience. When they go home for good, we’ll make sure the have a local sleep doctor and local DME.”