The prevalence of metabolic syndrome in children: a systematic review of the literature

Amanda Friend, Leone Craig, Steve Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

226 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Metabolic syndrome has been identified as a condition of childhood relatively recently. The aim in this study was to describe the prevalence of metabolic syndrome in children allowing for differences in metabolic syndrome definitions.

Methods: This was a systematic review of the OVID, EMBASE, and CINAHL databases, capturing details of overall prevalence and prevalence within groups categorized by obesity, gender, age, and ethnicity.

Results: In all, 378 studies published since 2003 were identified, and of these 85 papers were included in the present review. When all studies were considered, the median prevalence of metabolic syndrome in whole populations was 3.3% (range 0%–19.2%), in overweight children was 11.9% (range 2.8%–29.3%), and in obese populations was 29.2% (range 10%–66%). Within-study analyses confirmed higher prevalence for obese compared to overweight (P=0.012) and obese compared to nonobese, nonoverweight children (P<0.001). Within-study analyses also revealed higher median metabolic syndrome prevalence for boys compared to girls (5.1% versus 3.0%, P<0.001) and also in older compared with younger children (5.6% versus 2.9%, P=0.001). Limited evidence was found to suggest differences between ethnic groups, and there were insufficient studies to determine whether metabolic syndrome prevalence was increasing over time.

Conclusions: This is the first systematic review of all of the relevant literature. It describes the magnitude of associations between metabolic syndrome and obesity, age, and gender. We find evidence that ethnicity and geography may be important to metabolic syndrome prevalence in children and these associations require further study.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-80
Number of pages10
JournalMetabolic syndrome and related disorders
Issue number2
Early online date18 Dec 2012
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2013


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