Distinct racial and ethnic metabolic syndrome characteristics: A comparative assessment in low-income children 7-10 years of age

Pediatr Obes. 2022 Oct;17(10):e12925. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12925. Epub 2022 May 12.


Background: Pediatric MetS prevalence varies due to lack of consensus on evaluative criteria and associated thresholds, with most not recommending a diagnosis <10 years. However, MetS risk components are becoming evident earlier in life and affect races and ethnicities disproportionately.

Objectives: To compare the prevalence of MetS based on existing definitions and elucidate racial- and ethnic-specific characteristics associated with MetS prevalence.

Methods: The baseline and follow-up samples included 900 and 557 children 7-10 years, respectively. Waist circumference, BMI percentile, blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose (FPG), insulin, triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) were measured. Agreement between MetS definitions was quantified via kappa statistics. MetS and risk factor prevalence and the predictability of metabolic parameters on MetS eight months later was evaluated via logistic regression. McFadden pseudo-R2 was reported as a measure of predictive ability, and the Akaike information criterion evaluated fit of each model.

Results: The baseline sample was 55.0% male and 71.6% Hispanic, followed by non-Hispanic White (NHW) (17.3%) and non-Hispanic Black (NHB) (11.1%), with an average age of 9.2 years. MetS prevalence ranged from 7.6% to 21.4%, highest in Hispanic (9.0%-24.0%) and lowest in NHB children (4.0%-14.0%). Highest agreement was between Ford et al. and Cook et al. definitions (K = 0.88) and lowest agreements were consistently with the International Diabetes Federation criteria (K ≤ 0.57). Compared to NHW children, Hispanic children had higher odds for MetS (OR: 1.7; p = 0.03) and waist circumference, HDL-C, and FPG risk factors (p < 0.05), while NHB children had higher odds for the FPG risk factor (p ≤ 0.007) and lower odds for the plasma triglycerides risk factor (p = 0.002), across multiple MetS definitions. In longitudinal analyses, HDL-C was the strongest independent predictor of MetS in Hispanic and NHW children (p < 0.001 and p < 0.01, respectively), while plasma triglycerides was the strongest independent predictor of MetS in NHB children (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: MetS prevalence was high in children ≤10 years, and proposed criteria are susceptible to racial and ethnic bias, diagnosing some populations more than other populations with high cardiovascular risk. Earlier preventative measures should be imposed in clinical settings, accounting for racial and ethnic differences, to mitigate disease onset.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02668744.

Keywords: insulin resistance; metabolic syndrome; obesity; pediatrics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Black People
  • Child
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Metabolic Syndrome* / ethnology
  • Poverty
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides
  • Waist Circumference
  • White People


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Triglycerides

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02668744