Dietary Improvements Decreased Metabolic Syndrome Severity in Adolescents

Girl eating fruit salad
Girl eating fruit salad
Metabolic syndrome severity has decreased among adolescents from 1999 and 2012.

Favorable increases in HDL cholesterol and decreases in fasting triglyceride measurements due to dietary changes were associated with a decline in metabolic syndrome among adolescents, according to recent research published in Pediatrics.

Due to increased awareness and pharmaceutical treatment of individual components of metabolic syndrome, prevalence of the disease has decreased among US adults. The goal of this study was to investigate metabolic syndrome prevalence and severity in adolescents in the United States.

The researchers examined data from 5117 participants of the NHANES survey. They used regression analysis to measure metabolic syndrome severity between 1999 and 2012, using a gender- and ethnicity-specific z score, and the adolescent adaptations of the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel to measure metabolic syndrome prevalence.

“This study has importance in that it is nationally representative for the US adolescent population, is novel in its temporal assessment of [metabolic syndrome] severity, and explores possible lifestyle factors contributing to population health trends,” the authors wrote. “These data further confirm the need for research, public health, and clinical collaboration in combating childhood [metabolic syndrome].”

Among US adolescents, metabolic syndrome severity decreased in a linear trend from 1999 to 2012 (P=.002), despite an increasing BMI z score (P=.005). Researchers observed that the decrease was due to trends in increasing HDL (P<.0001) and decreasing triglyceride levels (P=.0001).

There were no changes in physical activity among the participants during this time period. Total calorie consumption and carbohydrate consumption were positively associated with HDL levels and negatively associated with triglyceride levels, while unsaturated fat consumption were negatively associated with HDL and positively associated with triglycerides.

Researchers also found trends of decreasing total calorie consumption (P<.0001), decreasing carbohydrate consumption (P<.0001), and increasing unsaturated fat consumption (P=.002).

The authors noted that future studies should investigate the effects of dietary differences on changes in metabolic syndrome severity in adolescents.

“It is important to understand what may be contributing to this US adolescent population improvement in [metabolic syndrome] severity because identifying the contributing factors could aid in ensuring their continued effectiveness, with potential beneficial implications for upcoming generations of children with respect to long-term health outcomes,” they concluded.


  1. Lee AM, Gurka MJ, DeBoer MD. Trends in Metabolic Syndrome Severity and Lifestyle Factors Among Adolescents. Pediatrics. 2016;137(3). doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-3177.