South Asians have high rates of diabetes and the highest rates of premature coronary artery disease in the world, both occurring about 10 years earlier than in other populations. The metabolic syndrome (MS), which appears to be the antecedent or "common soil" for both of these conditions, is also common among South Asians. Because South Asians develop metabolic abnormalities at a lower body mass index and waist circumference than other groups, conventional criteria underestimate the prevalence of MS by 25% to 50%. The proposed South Asian Modified National Cholesterol Education Program criteria that use abdominal obesity as an optional component and the South Asian-specific waist circumference recommended by the International Diabetes Federation appear to be more appropriate in this population. Furthermore, Asian Indians have at least double the risk of coronary artery disease than that of whites, even when adjusted for the presence of diabetes and MS. This increased risk appears to be due to South Asian dyslipidemia, which is characterized by high serum levels of apolipoprotein B, lipoprotein (a), and triglycerides and low levels of apolipoprotein A1 and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. In addition, the HDL particles are small, dense, and dysfunctional. MS needs to be recognized as a looming danger to South Asians and treated with aggressive lifestyle modifications beginning in childhood and at a lower threshold than in other populations.