The metabolic syndrome (MetS), characterized by a clustering of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes (T2DM) risk factors, has become prevalent in children and adolescents in recent years. However, the reported prevalence data on the MetS in youths has varied markedly, in large part, because of the disagreement among the variously proposed definitions of the MetS. Obesity is defined by using body mass index, waist circumference, or percent overweight, pointing to the need for standardized use of anthropometric variables to define obesity with a well-defined reference year for each ethnic population. In addition, slightly different cutoff values are used for triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting plasma glucose. Therefore, International Diabetes Federation recently proposed unified, easy-to-use criteria for diagnosing the MetS in youths. To provide insight into the mechanisms underlying the MetS in youths, the degree of insulin sensitivity/resistance and its correlation with the serum lipid and blood pressure levels have been evaluated. In addition, the serum levels of adipocytokines, such as adiponectin, leptin, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, resistin, interleukin-6, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, and their correlation with childhood obesity have been extensively investigated. Recommendations for future research include exploring ways to assess visceral adiposity, to identify better biochemical markers for prediction of T2DM and disease progression, and to effectively intervene to prevent the MetS in youths.
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