Metabolic syndrome: a closer look at the growing epidemic and its associated pathologies

Obes Rev. 2015 Jan;16(1):1-12. doi: 10.1111/obr.12229. Epub 2014 Nov 18.


Obesity is reaching epidemic proportions with recent worldwide figures estimated at 1.4 billion and rising year-on-year. Obesity affects all socioeconomic backgrounds and ethnicities and is a pre-requisite for metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a clustering of risk factors, such as central obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidaemia and hypertension that together culminate in the increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. As these conditions are among the leading causes of deaths worldwide and metabolic syndrome increases the risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus fivefold and cardiovascular disease threefold, it is of critical importance that a precise definition is agreed upon by all interested parties. Also of particular interest is the relationship between metabolic syndrome and cancer. Metabolic syndrome has been associated with a plethora of cancers including breast, pancreatic, colon and liver cancer. Furthermore, each individual risk factor for metabolic syndrome has also an association with cancer. Our review collates internationally generated information on metabolic syndrome, its many definitions and its associations with life-threatening conditions including type 2 diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease and cancer, providing a foundation for future advancements on this topic.

Keywords: Cancer; cardiovascular disease; metabolic syndrome; type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Epidemics
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Obesity, Abdominal / complications
  • Obesity, Abdominal / epidemiology
  • Obesity, Abdominal / physiopathology*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors