The so-called epidemic of childhood obesity has increased the interest in the metabolic syndrome (MS) due to the potential projection into adulthood. Prevalence of the MS in adolescents has been estimated to be 6.7% in young adults and 4.2% in adolescents. Figures rise up to 28.7% in overweight and obese adolescents.
The most widely accepted hypothesis links the syndrome to obesity. In the Bogalusa study, the best predictors were obesity and being in the upper quartile of basal insulin levels. Ethnic and genetic factors play a role in order to explain the syndrome in the non-obese population and the differences of interobesity.
The relationship between MS and type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease is well established in adults. This association can be suggested in children as well, although the syndrome in childhood urgently needs to be clearly defined. In this age group, it is also of great interest to identify diagnosis criteria of the so-called pre-MS.
Detection of the syndrome focuses mainly on obese and overweight young people. Other population groups such as newborns with low or high birth weight, infants with accelerated growth, or children of obese or with gestational diabetes mothers are at a higher risk of developing peripheral insulin resistance. The measurement of abdominal circumference can be a useful screening tool.
Physical exercise and restriction of saturated and trans fatty acids are basic for treatment. If reducing weight is necessary, a reduction of carbohydrate intake, especially for refined sugars, must be emphasised. Dietary fibre improves insulin sensitivity.