Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The prevalence of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular risk factors in adults in southern China

Xiang Qian Lao1, Yong Hui Zhang2*, Martin Chi Sang Wong1, Yan Jun Xu2, Hao Feng Xu2, Shao Ping Nie2, Wen Jun Ma23*, G Neil Thomas4 and Ignatius Tak Sun Yu1

Author Affiliations

1 School of Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, HongKong, China

2 Center for disease Control and Prevention of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou, China

3 Guangdong Institute of Public Health, 176, Xin Gang Xi Road, Guangzhou, China

4 School of Health and Population Sciences, The University of Birmingham Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:64  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-64

Published: 21 January 2012



The metabolic syndrome has been shown to increase the incidence of cardiovascular disease. Little information exists on the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome for southern Chinese. We therefore investigate the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in a southern Chinese population with 85 million residents.


The Guangdong Nutrition and Health Survey 2002 is a cross-sectional survey designed to assess the health and nutritional status of 85 million residents in Guangdong province located in southern China. Stratified multistage random sampling method was applied in this survey and a provincial representative sample of 6,468 residents aged 20 years or above was obtained in the present study. The participants received a full medical check-up including measurement of blood pressure, obesity indices, fasting lipids and glucose levels. Data describing socioeconomic and lifestyle factors was also collected through interview. Metabolic syndrome was defined in accordance with the International Diabetes Federation criteria.


The prevalence of metabolic syndrome was 7.30%, translating into a total of 4.0 million residents aged 20 years or above having the condition in this southern Chinese population. The urban population had higher prevalence of the syndrome than the rural population (10.57% vs 4.30%). Females had a higher prevalence of metabolic syndrome than males (8.99% vs 5.27%). More than 60% of the adults had at least one component of the metabolic syndrome.


Our results indicate that a large proportion of southern Chinese adults have the metabolic syndrome and associated risk factors. The metabolic syndrome has become an important public health problem in China. These findings emphasize the urgent need to develop population level strategies for the prevention, detection, and treatment of cardiovascular risk in China.