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Open Access Research article

Prevalence of metabolic syndrome in Murcia Region, a southern European Mediterranean area with low cardiovascular risk and high obesity

Diana Gavrila12*, Diego Salmerón124, José-Manuel Egea-Caparrós3, José M Huerta12, Alfonso Pérez-Martínez3, Carmen Navarro124 and María-José Tormo124

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology, Regional Authority for Health & Consumer Affairs (Consejería de Sanidad y Consumo), Ronda de Levante 11, 30008 Murcia, Spain

2 CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Spain

3 Clinical Laboratory, Hospital Morales Meseguer, Avda. Marqués de los Vélez s/n, 30008 Murcia, Spain

4 Department of Socio-health Sciences, University of Murcia School of Medicine, Spain

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:562  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-562

Published: 14 July 2011



Metabolic syndrome (MS) is associated with subsequent appearance of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As compared to other Spanish regions, Murcia (southern Spain) registers increased obesity as well as cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of MS and its components, awareness of obesity as a health risk and associated lifestyles.


A population-based, cross-sectional study was conducted in 2003, covering a sample of 1555 individuals 20 years and over. MS was defined according to the Revised National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III (R-ATPIII), International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and Joint Interim Statement (JIS) criteria. Both low (94/80) and high (102/88) waist circumference (WC) thresholds were considered.


Prevalence of MS was 27.2% (95%CI: 25.2-29.2), 32.2% (95%CI: 30.1-34.3) and 33.2% (95%CI: 31.2-35.3) according to the R-ATPIII, IDF and JIS94/80 respectively. It increased with age until reaching 52.6% (R-ATPIII) or 60.3% (JIS94/80) among persons aged 70 years and over, and was higher in persons with little or no formal education (51.7% R-ATPIII, 57.3% JIS94/80). The most common risk factors were hypertension (46.6%) and central obesity (40.7% and 66.1% according to high and low WC cut-off points respectively). Although most persons were aware that obesity increased health risks, regular exercise was very unusual (13.0% centrally obese, 27.2% non-centrally obese). Adherence to dietary recommendations was similar among centrally obese and non-centrally obese subjects.


Prevalence of MS is high in our population, is comparable to that found in northern Europe and varies with the definition used. Adherence to preventive recommendations and to adequate weight promotion is very low. In the absence of a specific treatment for MS, integrated intervention based on a sustained increase in physical activity and changes in diet should be reinforced.