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Back to Symposium 2007

Abdominal Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome

Ian Janssen, PhD

Assistant Professor, School of Kinesiology and Health Studies and Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Queen’s University

This presentation focused on the role of obesity as a key feature of the metabolic syndrome. The World Health Organization, National Cholesterol Education Program, and International Diabetes Federation have all recognized the metabolic syndrome as a highly prevalent risk factor for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They have also recognized the importance of obesity—particularly abdominal obesity—as a key component of the metabolic syndrome.

Although obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, not all obese patients are at high risk of these diseases. For any given amount of total fat, the subgroup of obese individuals with excessive amounts of intra-abdominal fat, typically assessed in the clinical setting as a high waist circumference, is at substantially greater risk of having the features of the metabolic syndrome. Abdominal obesity is a marker of dysfunctional adipose tissue which contributes to the defining features of the metabolic syndrome including insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and a prothrombotic, inflammatory state. Although not all patients with the metabolic syndrome have abdominal obesity, its presence significantly increases the risks associated with the metabolic syndrome.

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