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J Cardiol. 2013 Jun;61(6):440-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jjcc.2013.01.011. Epub 2013 Mar 9.

Are former elite athletes more protected against metabolic syndrome?

Author information

  • 1Centre of Research, Education, Innovation and Intervention in Sport, University of Porto, Porto, Portugal. cristianohxbatista@gmail.com



Scientific literature offers no epidemiological data regarding prevalence and protective factors for the metabolic syndrome (MetSyn) among former athletes. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to investigate whether former athletes are better protected against MetSyn and if this hypothetical protection is dependent on sex, career, or later lifestyle.


We assessed demographic, behavioral, physical, and biochemical characteristics in a population of 491 subjects of both sexes.


After adjustment for potential confounding factors, we found no significant differences in the likelihood of MetSyn among former elite, non-elite, and non-athletes. Likewise, sex and previous sport intensity did not reveal a significant association with the syndrome. However, both former elite [odds ratio (OR) 0.20, p=0.020] and non-elite athletes (OR 0.50, p=0.044) who after career termination engaged in the recommended amounts of physical activity, showed a reduced likelihood for the MetSyn.


Former athletes tend to adopt healthier lifestyles, which may give them an advantage regarding the risk factors that delineate the syndrome. Furthermore, physical activity engagement at recommended levels seems to play an important role in the association with MetSyn, even in subjects who have never been athletes.

Copyright © 2013 Japanese College of Cardiology. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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