Objective: To compare the characteristics and prevalence of the metabolic syndrome (MetS) among Native Indians, Inuit, and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
Methods: The study was based on four cross-sectional studies conducted in the late 1980s and early 1990s involving three ethnic groups living in contiguous regions in central Canada: Oji-Cree Indians from several reserves in northern Ontario and Manitoba, Inuit from the Keewatin region of the Northwest Territories, and non-Aboriginal Canadians (predominantly of European heritage) in the province of Manitoba. The MetS was identified among adult subjects according to the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) definition. Prevalence rates were standardized to the 1991 Canadian national population.
Results: The age-standardized prevalence of the MetS varied by ethnic group, ranging from as high as 45% among Native Indian women to as low as 8% among Inuit men. Compared with Canadians of European origin, Indians had a worse metabolic profile, while Inuit had a better metabolic profile except for a high rate of abdominal obesity. The NCEP criteria in identifying individuals with the MetS were compared to those of the World Health Organization (WHO) in a subset of subjects with the requisite laboratory data. There was moderate agreement between the NCEP and WHO definitions, with a kappa value of 0.63 (95% confidence interval 0.56-0.70).
Conclusions: The results indicate that the MetS is prevalent in diverse ethnic groups in Canada but varies in the pattern of phenotypic expression. Given the diverse nature of these populations, careful consideration should be given to developing culturally appropriate community-based prevention strategies aimed at reducing the frequency of this syndrome.