Background: In adults the metabolic syndrome imposes a substantial risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus and premature coronary heart disease. Even so, no national estimate is currently available of the prevalence of this syndrome in adolescents.
Objective: To estimate the prevalence and distribution of a metabolic syndrome among adolescents in the United States.
Design and setting: Analyses of cross-sectional data obtained from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994), which was administered to a representative sample of the noninstitutionalized civilian population of the United States.
Participants: Male and female respondents aged 12 to 19 years (n = 2430).
Main outcome measures: The prevalence and distribution of a metabolic syndrome among US adolescents, using the National Cholesterol Education Program (Adult Treatment Panel III) definition modified for age.
Results: The overall prevalence of the metabolic syndrome among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years was 4.2%; 6.1% of males and 2.1% of females were affected (P=.01). The syndrome was present in 28.7% of overweight adolescents (body mass index [BMI], >/=95th percentile) compared with 6.8% of at-risk adolescents (BMI, 85th to <95th percentile) and 0.1% of those with a BMI below the 85th percentile (P<.001). Based on population-weighted estimates, approximately 910 000 US adolescents have the metabolic syndrome.
Conclusions: Perhaps 4% of adolescents and nearly 30% of overweight adolescents in the United States meet these criteria for a metabolic syndrome, a constellation of metabolic derangements associated with obesity. These findings may have significant implications for both public health and clinical interventions directed at this high-risk group of mostly overweight young people.