Background: Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of interrelated disorders which occur together causing an increase in the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The university population is an understudied group despite the increase in the frequency of related disorders and metabolic risk factors e.g. obesity and diabetes, majorly due to the assumption that they are in their most active phase of life therefore healthy. This study looked at metabolic syndrome, the sedentary lifestyles and dietary habits present among university students attending Mount Kenya University, main campus.
Methods: Stratified sampling was used to select participants. Self-administered questionnaires were issued to participants after a signed consent had been obtained following which clinical assessments and biochemical measures were performed. They included blood pressure, fasting blood glucose, triglycerides, high density lipoprotein-cholesterol, anthropometric measurements; height, weight, BMI and waist circumference. Pearson's chi-square tests and non-parametric independent t-test were used to analyze the prevalence of metabolic syndrome criteria per gender, the number of metabolic syndrome criteria per BMI and prevalence of metabolic syndrome criteria per BMI category.
Results: The study established that 1.9% of the participants met the criteria for diagnosis of metabolic syndrome according to HJSS criteria. Among the elements, there was statistical difference in gender BMI and waist circumference. 11.8% of subjects had two metabolic syndrome components while 3.1% had three components while none of the subjects had all six components. Elevated triglycerides was the most prevalent defining component for metabolic syndrome. There is a statistically significant relationship between sedentary lifestyle and dietary habits as risk factors to metabolic syndrome.
Conclusion: Young adults in university have begun developing metabolic syndrome and the risk of developing the syndrome continues to increase with the components being reported in early age. Educational initiatives to encourage healthy eating should be conducted within school premises in order to reinforce the message on healthy diets and physical exercise. Pre-admission screening to identify at risk students should be conducted. Targeted interventions development through a mandatory extra co-curricular program should be enforced to positively engage those at risk.
Keywords: Diabetes; Metabolic syndrome; University students.