Risk factors associated with the metabolic syndrome in abdominal obesity


Address for correspondence: Dr HJ Schneider, Medizinische Klinik und Poliklinik IV, LMU, Ziemssenstr. 1, 80336 Munich, Germany. E-mail: harald.schneider@med.uni-muenchen.de


Obesity is associated with the metabolic syndrome. However, not all obese individuals have cardiovascular risk factors (CVRF). It is not clear how many abdominally obese individuals are free of CVRF and what distinguishes them from the group of obese individuals with CVRF. In this study, we aimed to assess the associated factors and prevalence of abdominal obesity without CVRF. In our cross-sectional analysis, we included n = 4244 subjects from the Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP), a population-based study and n = 6671 subjects from the Diabetes Cardiovascular Risk-Evaluation: Targets and Essential Data for Commitment of Treatment (DETECT) study, a representative primary care study in Germany. We defined abdominal obesity by waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) of 0.5 or greater. We assessed how many subjects with abdominal obesity had CVRF based on the definition of the metabolic syndrome. We analysed which conditions were associated with the absence of CVRF in abdominal obesity. In SHIP and DETECT, 2652 (62.5%) and 5126 (76.8%) subjects had a WHtR ≥ 0.5. Among those with a WHtR ≥ 0.5, 9.0% and 13.8% were free of CVRF and 49.9% and 52.7% had at least two CVRF in SHIP and DETECT, respectively. In both studies, after backward elimination, age, male sex, body mass index and high liver enzymes and unemployment were consistently inversely associated with the absence of CVRF. Among abdominally obese subjects, the prevalence of metabolically healthy subjects is low. Conditions consistently associated with the absence of CVRF in abdominal obesity are younger age, female sex, low BMI, and normal liver enzymes, the latter likely reflecting the absence of steatohepatitis.