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Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2012 Feb;22(2):141-8. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2010.05.006. Epub 2010 Aug 12.

Racial/ethnic discrepancies in the metabolic syndrome begin in childhood and persist after adjustment for environmental factors.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of Virginia School of Medicine, P.O. Box 800386, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.



Evaluation of metabolic syndrome (MetS) characteristics across an age spectrum from childhood to adulthood has been limited by a lack of consistent MetS criteria for children and adults and by a lack of adjustment for environmental factors. We used the pediatric and adult International Diabetes Federation (IDF) criteria to determine whether gender-specific and race-specific differences in MetS and its components are present in adolescents as in adults after adjustment for socio-economic status (SES) and lifestyle factors.


Waist circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and fasting glucose measures were obtained from 3100 adolescent (12-19 years) and 3419 adult (20-69 years) non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Mexican-American participants of the 1999-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. We compared odds of having MetS and its components across racial/ethnic groups by age group, while adjusting for income, education, physical activity and diet quality. After adjusting for possible confounding influences of SES and lifestyle, non-Hispanic-black adolescent males exhibited a lower odds of MetS and multiple components (abdominal obesity, hypertriglyceridemia, low HDL, hyperglycemia) compared to non-Hispanic-white and Mexican-American adolescents. Compared to non-Hispanic-white adolescent males, Mexican-American adolescent males had less hypertension. There were no differences in MetS prevalence among adolescent females, though non-Hispanic-black girls exhibited less hypertriglyceridemia.


Racial/ethnicity-specific differences in MetS and its components are present in both adolescence and adulthood, even after adjusting for environmental factors. These data help strengthen arguments for developing racial/ethnic-specific MetS criteria to better identify individuals at risk for future cardiovascular disease.

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