Weight, Fitness and Lifestyle Identified as Important Factors Contributing to Metabolic Syndrome

The metabolic syndrome, a group of several abnormalities, including obesity and high blood pressure, in one individual was identified in 10.4 percent of 36-year-old study participants, according to an article in the January 10 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to background information in the article, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome, an important cause of cardiovascular disease, is increasing, especially in young individuals. Metabolic syndrome is identified when three or more of five risk factors are present: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglyceride levels, high blood sugar levels, and a waist circumference of more than 94 cm [about 37 inches] in men and more than 80 cm [about 31.5 inches] in women. Although metabolic syndrome is believed to be caused principally by obesity, its determinants aren't completely understood.

Isabel Ferreira, Ph.D., from the Institute for Research in Extramural Medicine, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed to what extent specific variables determined the occurrence of the metabolic syndrome in patients from age 13 to 36 years. The researchers measured body fatness and fat distribution, cardiopulmonary fitness, and lifestyle factors in 364 participants from the Amsterdam Growth and Longitudinal Study, which began in 1977.

The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome at the age of 36 years was 10.4 percent. Participants with the metabolic syndrome, compared to those without, had a more significant increase in total body fatness and trunk fat beneath the skin; a decrease in cardiopulmonary fitness; an increase in physical activities of light-to-moderate intensity, but a decrease in more intense physical activities; a higher energy intake throughout the study; and a decreased likelihood of alcoholic beverage consumption. The metabolic syndrome was identified in 3.2 percent of the women and 18.3 percent of the men participating in the study.

"Fatness, fitness, and lifestyle are important determinants of the metabolic syndrome in young adults," the authors write. "More important, these associations were independent of each other and, therefore, represent separate potential targets for the prevention of metabolic syndrome. Our study further suggests that intervening early in life (e.g., in the period of transition from adolescence to adulthood) may be a fruitful area for prevention of the metabolic syndrome," they concluded.

Dr. Ferreira was supported by a joint research grant from the Foundation for Science and Technology (State Secretary of Science and Technology of Portugal) and the European Social Fund (Third European Community Framework Program).

(Arch Intern Med. 2005; 165: 4245)

Source: JAMA/Archives Journals