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The impact of obstructive apnea sleep syndrome on chemical function

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To investigate the impact of obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) on the olfactory and gustatory functions, and the potential mechanisms affecting olfactory and gustatory functions.

Materials and methods

A total of 120 men between the ages of 41 and 70 (mean age (SD) = 56 ± 7.5) were divided into three groups according to polysomnography results: snoring group, mild to moderate OSAS group, and severe OSAS group. Olfactory and gustatory functions were evaluated by the Sniffin’ Sticks test and the triple-drop method, respectively. Otorhinolaryngologic examination, as well as sleep and quality of life questionnaires, were completed by all subjects one day before or after polysomnography.


There was a significant difference in odor thresholds (THR), odor discrimination (OD), odor identification (OI), thresholds-discrimination-identification (TDI) (p < 0.001, p < 0.001, p = 0.003, p < 0.001), and total taste score (p = 0.004, p = 0.021, p = 0.006) in all three groups. Of the subjects in the OSAS group, 43 (54%) exhibited olfactory dysfunction, including 18 subjects (45%) in the mild to moderate group and 25 subjects (63%) in the severe group. Significant negative correlations were found between all olfactory parameters and polysomnography parameters. Furthermore, a negative correlation was present between the total taste scores and the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI).


Men with OSAS exhibited impairment in olfactory and gustatory functions. Significant correlations were found between AHI and olfactory parameters, as well as between AHI and total taste scores.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2



Apnea-hypopnea index


Body mass index


Percentage of time with oxygen saturation below 90%


Epworth Sleepiness Questionnaire

LSaO2 :

The lowest oxygen saturation


Montreal Cognitive Assessment


Mean arterial oxygen desaturation

MSaO2 :

Mean arterial oxygen saturation


Odor discrimination


Odor identification


Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome


Positive airway pressure


The MOS 36-item short-form health survey




Odor thresholds


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We thank all the patients and the staff from the Department of Otolaryngology and sleep medical center, Beijing Anzhen Hospital, China, who have participated in this study. We also thank Dr. Richard L Doty and Akshay Tangutur (University of Pennsylvania) for proofreading the manuscript.


The National Natural Science Foundation of China (81870335, 81670903) and the Capital’s Funds for Health Improvement and Research (2018-2-2065) supported this study.

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Correspondence to Yongxiang Wei.

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Liu, Y., Fang, F., Zhan, X. et al. The impact of obstructive apnea sleep syndrome on chemical function. Sleep Breath (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11325-020-02022-3

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  • Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome
  • Olfactory dysfunction
  • Gustatory dysfunction
  • Cognitive dysfunctions
  • Hypoxia
  • Peripheral neurodegeneration