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School of Public Health





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.


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.


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.


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.

Source Citation

DeBoer, M.D., Gurka, M.J. Low sensitivity of the metabolic syndrome to identify adolescents with impaired glucose tolerance: an analysis of NHANES 1999–2010. Cardiovasc Diabetol 13, 83 (2014).


© 2014 DeBoer and Gurka; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.



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