From: Reuters
Published May 21, 2008 09:21 PM

Metabolic syndrome can't predict heart risk: study

By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - So-called "metabolic syndrome," a composite medical condition often cited by drug companies, can predict diabetes but not heart disease, British researchers said on Thursday.

Richard Khan, chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association, said the finding was "another nail in the coffin" for the syndrome, which has been criticized in the past for having limited diagnostic value.

Metabolic syndrome requires patients to have at least three of five medical disorders -- a large waist circumference, high triglyceride levels, low "good" HDL cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and raised blood sugar levels.


A growing section of the population in North America and Europe are covered by such a definition, reflecting the increasing problem of obesity in developed countries.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow analyzed data from past clinical trials involving more than 7,500 elderly patients and found the syndrome was linked to type 2 diabetes risk but had only a weak or no association with cardiovascular problems.

"I can see why drug companies and other researchers have used the criteria in part of their analysis, because it is an easy way to do the analysis, but actually it is not clinically useful," Naveed Sattar, who led the study, told Reuters.

"You cannot have a risk criteria that tries to pick up the risk for diabetes and heart disease at the same time -- it just doesn't work."

His team's findings were published online by the Lancet medical journal.

Advocates of metabolic syndrome, which was first introduced a decade ago, had hoped it would be a simpler way to simultaneously identify individuals at risk of either diabetes or heart disease.

Yet its failure to take into account other well established risk factors for heart disease such as age, "bad" LDL cholesterol and smoking meant it was flawed, Sattar said.

"It (metabolic syndrome) is a criteria that might medicalise a quarter of the population, which is really quite unhelpful," he added.

The American Diabetes Association and European Association for the Study of Diabetes said three years ago that metabolic syndrome was poorly defined, inconsistently used and in need of further research.

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

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