Insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome in the pediatric population

Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2010 Feb;8(1):1-14. doi: 10.1089/met.2009.0068.


The metabolic syndrome is a constellation of specific anthropometric, physiological, and biochemical abnormalities predisposing affected individuals to the development of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The syndrome is well described in the adult literature. However, its description in the pediatric literature is more limited. Due in large part to the normal physiological changes that occur in children and adolescents with respect to growth and puberty, investigators have also struggled to establish a standard definition of the syndrome in the pediatric age group, hindering coordinated research efforts. However, whatever definition of the syndrome is used, the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in the pediatric age group has increased worldwide. Insulin resistance is the principal metabolic abnormality that is common to the development of the metabolic syndrome in both children and adults. This review summarizes current research regarding the pathophysiology of insulin resistance and how this may contribute to specific abnormalities seen in children and adolescents with the metabolic syndrome. Specifically, insulin resistance in pediatric patients is correlated with cardiovascular risk factors such as elevated blood pressure, dyslipidemia, and type 2 diabetes mellitus, all of which are significant risk factors for adult disease. In addition, current treatment and prevention strategies, including lifestyle modifications, pharmacologic agents, and certain surgical therapies, are highlighted. The need for collaborative changes at the family, school, city, state, and national levels to address the growing prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in the pediatric age group is also reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / classification
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Metabolic Syndrome / genetics*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Pediatrics / methods
  • Signal Transduction


  • Insulin