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Open Access Highly Accessed Original investigation

Low sensitivity of the metabolic syndrome to identify adolescents with impaired glucose tolerance: an analysis of NHANES 1999–2010

Mark D DeBoer1* and Matthew J Gurka2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pediatrics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, USA

2 Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA

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Cardiovascular Diabetology 2014, 13:83  doi:10.1186/1475-2840-13-83

Published: 23 April 2014

Abstract

Background

The presence of impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) and metabolic syndrome (MetS) are two risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. The inter-relatedness of these factors among adolescents is unclear.

Methods

We evaluated the sensitivity and specificity of MetS for identifying IGT in an unselected group of adolescents undergoing oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT) in the National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey 1999–2010. We characterized IGT as a 2-hour glucose ≥140 mg/dL and MetS using ATP-III-based criteria and a continuous sex- and race/ethnicity-specific MetS Z-score at cut-offs of +1.0 and +0.75 standard deviations (SD) above the mean.

Results

Among 1513 adolescents, IGT was present in 4.8%, while ATP-III-MetS was present in 7.9%. MetS performed poorly in identifying adolescents with IGT with a sensitivity/specificity of 23.7%/92.9% for ATP-III-MetS, 23.6%/90.8% for the MetS Z-score at +1.0 SD and 35.8%/85.0 for the MetS Z-score at +0.75 SD. Sensitivity was higher (and specificity lower) but was still overall poor among overweight/obese adolescents: 44.7%/83.0% for ATP-III-MetS, 43.1%/77.1% for the MetS Z-score at +1.0 SD and 64.3%/64.3% for MetS Z-score at +0.75 SD.

Conclusion

This lack of overlap between MetS and IGT may indicate that assessment of MetS is not likely to be a good indicator of which adolescents to screen using OGTT. These data further underscore the importance of other potential contributors to IGT, including Type 1 diabetes and genetic causes of poor beta-cell function. Practitioners should keep these potential causes of IGT in mind, even when evaluating obese adolescents with IGT.

Keywords:
Insulin resistance; Metabolic syndrome; Impaired glucose tolerance; Type 2 diabetes; Adolescents