Background: The term 'metabolic syndrome' refers to a clustering of specific cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors whose underlying pathophysiology is thought to be related to insulin resistance.
Methods: Since the term is widely used in research and clinical practice, we undertook an extensive review of the literature in relation to the syndrome's definition, underlying pathogenesis, association with cardiovascular disease and to the goals and impact of treatment.
Discussion: While there is no question that certain CVD risk factors are prone to cluster, we found that the metabolic syndrome has been imprecisely defined, there is a lack of certainty regarding its pathogenesis, and there is considerable doubt regarding its value as a CVD risk marker. Our analysis indicates that too much critically important information is missing to warrant its designation as a 'syndrome'.
Conclusion: Until much-needed research is completed, clinicians should evaluate and treat all CVD risk factors without regard to whether a patient meets the criteria for diagnosis of the 'metabolic syndrome'.