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Ethn Dis. 2003 Fall;13(4):429-37.

Factor analysis and defining the metabolic syndrome.

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Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.



The metabolic syndrome has been referred to as a number of metabolic or physiologic abnormalities that occur together more often than would be predicted by chance. Considerable controversy exists about the exact abnormalities that are a part of this syndrome. The aim of this study was to examine the interrelations between these abnormalities.


National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994), a national cross-sectional health survey.


United States.


Persons aged > or = 20 years (N=6868).


Factors composed of variables often associated with the metabolic syndrome derived from principal components analysis.


Depending on the subgroup studied, the analyses suggested that at least 2 or 3 components were needed to explain the majority of variance in a set of variables. Regardless of age group, sex, race or ethnicity, 4 variables (waist circumference, fasting insulin, triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) consistently loaded together on the first component, which is consistent with a metabolic syndrome factor. Some differences in the number of factors and the loading patterns occurred among 3 age groups and among men and women. Relatively minimal race or ethnic variation was observed when the data were stratified by sex. A subanalysis that included leptin concentrations produced a similar set of factors as the analysis without leptin concentration. Furthermore, leptin concentration did not provide a unifying explanation for the set of factors.


Patterns of factors of variables, often associated with the metabolic syndrome, tended to be similar among Whites, African Americans, and Mexican Americans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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