Objective: To report the prevalence rates of the metabolic syndrome in a nationally representative sample of adolescents in the United States using 4 previously reported definitions of the syndrome.
Study design: Data from 12- to 19-year-old adolescents included in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999 to 2002 (NHANES 99-02) were analyzed by cross-sectional methods, by using 4 definitions of the metabolic syndrome previously applied to adolescents.
Results: In NHANES 99-02, the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in all teens varied from 2.0% to 9.4% of teens in the United States, depending on the definition used. In obese teens, these prevalence rates varied from 12.4% to 44.2%. In the group of obese teens, application of the definition by Cruz produced a metabolic syndrome prevalence rate of 12.4%; that of Caprio produced a rate of 14.1%. However, none of the normal weight or overweight teens met either definition. Application of the definition by Cook produced a prevalence rate of 7.8% in overweight teens and 44% in obese teens. The adult definition of metabolic syndrome produced a prevalence rate of 16% in overweight teens and 26% in obese teens.
Conclusions: In the period between 1999 and 2002, the prevalence rate of metabolic syndrome varied from just >9% to as low as 2% of adolescents overall. Different definitions of metabolic syndrome generated prevalence rates in obese adolescents that varied widely from 12% to 44%. For this syndrome to be a useful construct, a more standardized set of criteria may be needed.