The Global Epidemic of the Metabolic Syndrome

Curr Hypertens Rep. 2018 Feb 26;20(2):12. doi: 10.1007/s11906-018-0812-z.


Metabolic syndrome, variously known also as syndrome X, insulin resistance, etc., is defined by WHO as a pathologic condition characterized by abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. Though there is some variation in the definition by other health care organization, the differences are minor. With the successful conquest of communicable infectious diseases in most of the world, this new non-communicable disease (NCD) has become the major health hazard of modern world. Though it started in the Western world, with the spread of the Western lifestyle across the globe, it has become now a truly global problem. The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome is often more in the urban population of some developing countries than in its Western counterparts. The two basic forces spreading this malady are the increase in consumption of high calorie-low fiber fast food and the decrease in physical activity due to mechanized transportations and sedentary form of leisure time activities. The syndrome feeds into the spread of the diseases like type 2 diabetes, coronary diseases, stroke, and other disabilities. The total cost of the malady including the cost of health care and loss of potential economic activity is in trillions. The present trend is not sustainable unless a magic cure is found (unlikely) or concerted global/governmental/societal efforts are made to change the lifestyle that is promoting it. There are certainly some elements in the causation of the metabolic syndrome that cannot be changed but many are amenable for corrections and curtailments. For example, better urban planning to encourage active lifestyle, subsidizing consumption of whole grains and possible taxing high calorie snacks, restricting media advertisement of unhealthy food, etc. Revitalizing old fashion healthier lifestyle, promoting old-fashioned foods using healthy herbs rather than oil and sugar, and educating people about choosing healthy/wholesome food over junks are among the steps that can be considered.

Keywords: Abdominal obesity; Healthy herbs; Insulin resistance; Leisure time physical activity (LTPA); Metabolic syndrome; Obesity; Prediabetes; Waist-hip ratio.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epidemics
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / etiology
  • Metabolic Syndrome / prevention & control
  • Prevalence