• Vol. 38 No. 1, 29–33
  • 15 January 2009

The Relevance of the Metabolic Syndrome



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Introduction: To review the definitions of the metabolic syndrome according to various expert groups and assess their relevance to clinical practice.

Materials and Methods: Medline searches were conducted to identify studies which addressed: (i) the utility of the metabolic syndrome compared to multivariable predictive functions for the identification of individuals at high risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and cardiovascular disease (CVD), (ii) the importance and definition of obesity in the definition of the metabolic syndrome and (iii) the impact of lifestyle and pharmacological interventions designed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in those with and without the metabolic syndrome.

Results: Although inferior to multivariable risk scores in predicting T2DM and CVD, the metabolic syndrome represents a simple clinical tool, particularly for the prediction of T2DM. Obesity is not a critical component of the metabolic syndrome for identifying those at increased risk of CVD but may be important for predicting T2DM. If anything, pharmacological therapy, especially lipid lowering is as, if not more, effective in those with the metabolic syndrome than in those without.

Conclusions: Although the metabolic syndrome appears to have limited utility for the identification of individuals at increased risk of T2DM or CVD, the diagnosis of the metabolic syndrome presents an opportunity to rationalise health services to deliver coordinated care to those with metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome describes a constellation of interrelated metabolic risk factors, in which components coexist more frequently in a given individual than could be expected by chance alone. These risk factors include hypertension, hyperglycaemia, dyslipidaemia and obesity. The underlying pathophysiology is as yet unclear, but has been closely linked to insulin resistance and obesity. Several expert groups have attempted to define the metabolic syndrome with the aim of establishing working diagnostic criteria that is applicable in clinical practice. The various criteria are found in Table 1.

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