Racial/ethnic discrepancies in the metabolic syndrome begin in childhood and persist after adjustment for environmental factors

Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2012 Feb;22(2):141-8. doi: 10.1016/j.numecd.2010.05.006. Epub 2010 Aug 12.


Background and aims: Evaluation of metabolic syndrome (MetS) characteristics across an age spectrum from childhood to adulthood has been limited by a lack of consistent MetS criteria for children and adults and by a lack of adjustment for environmental factors. We used the pediatric and adult International Diabetes Federation (IDF) criteria to determine whether gender-specific and race-specific differences in MetS and its components are present in adolescents as in adults after adjustment for socio-economic status (SES) and lifestyle factors.

Methods and results: Waist circumference, blood pressure, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, and fasting glucose measures were obtained from 3100 adolescent (12-19 years) and 3419 adult (20-69 years) non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Mexican-American participants of the 1999-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. We compared odds of having MetS and its components across racial/ethnic groups by age group, while adjusting for income, education, physical activity and diet quality. After adjusting for possible confounding influences of SES and lifestyle, non-Hispanic-black adolescent males exhibited a lower odds of MetS and multiple components (abdominal obesity, hypertriglyceridemia, low HDL, hyperglycemia) compared to non-Hispanic-white and Mexican-American adolescents. Compared to non-Hispanic-white adolescent males, Mexican-American adolescent males had less hypertension. There were no differences in MetS prevalence among adolescent females, though non-Hispanic-black girls exhibited less hypertriglyceridemia.

Conclusion: Racial/ethnicity-specific differences in MetS and its components are present in both adolescence and adulthood, even after adjusting for environmental factors. These data help strengthen arguments for developing racial/ethnic-specific MetS criteria to better identify individuals at risk for future cardiovascular disease.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environment*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / blood
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Waist Circumference
  • Young Adult


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Triglycerides