Background: The metabolic syndrome (MetS) comprises several cardiometabolic risk factors associated with increased risk for both type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Skin autofluorescence (SAF), a non-invasive biomarker of advanced glycation end products accumulation, is associated with cardiovascular complications in subjects with diabetes. The aim of the present study was to examine the association between SAF and the presence of MetS as well as its individual components in a general population.
Methods: For this cross-sectional analysis, we included 78,671 non-diabetic subjects between 18 and 80 years of age who participated in the LifeLines Cohort Study and had SAF measurement obtained non-invasively using the AGE Reader. MetS was defined according to the revised NCEP ATP III criteria. Students unpaired t test was used to test differences between groups. Both logistic and linear regression analyses were performed in order to test associations between the individual MetS components and SAF.
Results: Subjects with MetS had higher SAF (2.07 ± 0.45 arbitrary units, AU) compared to individuals without MetS (1.89 ± 0.42 AU) (p < 0.001). There was a positive association between the number of MetS components and higher SAF Z-scores (p < 0.001). Individuals in the highest SAF tertile had a higher presence of MetS (OR 2.61; 95% CI 2.48-2.75) and some of the individual components compared to subjects in the lowest SAF tertile. After correction for age, gender, creatinine clearance, HbA1c and smoking status, only elevated blood pressure and low HDL cholesterol remained significantly associated with higher SAF (p = 0.002 and p = 0.001 respectively).
Conclusion: Skin autofluorescence was associated with the presence of MetS and some of its individual components. In addition, increasing SAF Z-scores were observed with a higher number of MetS components. Prospective studies are needed to establish whether SAF can be used as an (additional) screening tool to predict both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in high-risk populations.