Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a complex disorder defined by a cluster of interconnected factors that increase the risk of cardiovascular atherosclerotic diseases and diabetes mellitus type 2. Currently, several different definitions of MetS exist, causing substantial confusion as to whether they identify the same individuals or represent a surrogate of risk factors. Recently, a number of other factors besides those traditionally used to define MetS that are also linked to the syndrome have been identified. In this review, we critically consider existing definitions and evolving information, and conclude that there is still a need to develop uniform criteria to define MetS, so as to enable comparisons between different studies and to better identify patients at risk. As the application of the MetS model has not been fully validated in children and adolescents as yet, and because of its alarmingly increasing prevalence in this population, we suggest that diagnosis, prevention and treatment in this age group should better focus on established risk factors rather than the diagnosis of MetS.