Introduction: The global prevalence of metabolic syndrome and its association with increased morbidity and mortality has been rigorously studied. However, the true prevalence of “metabolic health”, i.e. individuals without any metabolic abnormalities is not clear. Here, we sought to determine the prevalence of “metabolically healthy” individuals and characterize the “transition phase” from metabolic health to development of dysfunction over a follow-up period of 5 years. Methods: We included 20,507 individuals from the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center Inflammation Survey (TAMCIS) which comprises apparently healthy individuals attending their annual health survey. A second follow-up visit was documented after 4.8 (± 0.6) years. We defined a group of metabolically healthy participants without metabolic abnormalities nor obesity and compared their characteristics and change in biomarkers over time to participants who developed metabolic impairment on their follow-up visit. The intersections of all metabolic syndrome components and elevated high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) were also analyzed. Results: A quarter of the cohort (5379 individuals, (26.2%) did not fulfill any metabolic syndrome criteria during their baseline visit. A total of 985 individuals (12.7% of returning participants) developed metabolic criteria over time with hypertension being the most prevalent component to develop among these participants. Individuals that became metabolically impaired over time demonstrated increased overlap between metabolic syndrome criteria and elevated hs-CRP levels. The group that became metabolically impaired over time also presented higher delta values of WBC, RBC, liver biomarkers, and uric acid compared with participants who were consistently metabolically impaired. LDL-C (low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) delta levels were similar. Conclusions: Roughly one-quarter of apparently healthy adults are defined as “metabolically healthy” according to current definitions. The transition from health to metabolic dysfunction is accompanied with active inflammation and several non-metabolic syndrome biomarkers. Aggressive screening for these biomarkers, blood pressure and hs-CRP might help identify apparently healthy individuals at increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome over time.
- C-reactive protein
- Metabolic syndrome