Association of diet quality, physical activity, and abdominal obesity with metabolic syndrome z-score in black and white adolescents in the US

Suzanne S. Summer*, Todd Jenkins, Thomas Inge, Ranjan Deka, Jane C. Khoury

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background and aims: Metabolic syndrome (MetS) affects ∼10% of adolescents and is associated with cardiometabolic disease risk. The most prevalent MetS component is abdominal obesity. Healthy diet and physical activity (PA) are inversely associated with abdominal obesity and may reduce MetS risk in youth. Our aim was to examine associations of diet, activity, and abdominal obesity with MetS z-score (MetS-z). Methods and results: An analysis of National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2011–2016 data in adolescents was performed. Healthy Eating Index (HEI)- 2015 scores were calculated for diet quality, PA habits were used to determine alignment with national guidelines, and abdominal obesity was assessed by sagittal abdominal diameter (SAD). MetS-z represented severity or potential risk for MetS. Multivariable regression evaluated the relationships of HEI, SAD and PA with MetS-z. Among 1214 black and white adolescents, SAD was significantly associated with MetS-z [β (95% CI) = 0.17 (0.16, 0.19); P <0.0001] while HEI-2015 components showed associations with MetS-z overall (HEI total, dairy, and sodium scores), and by sex (total, refined grains, dairy for males; added sugar, protein, whole grains for females). Mean HEI-2015 score was 47.4/100 (51.6 using the population-ratio method), and the proportion of adolescents meeting national PA guidelines was 37.6%, yet PA was not a significant predictor of MetS-z. Conclusions: US adolescents have poor diet quality and fewer than half meet PA guidelines. Strategies for preventing MetS and related conditions in adolescence should focus on weight management – specifically, abdominal fat reduction – with individualized diet counseling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-354
Number of pages9
JournalNutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Abdominal obesity
  • Adolescents
  • Healthy eating index
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Sagittal abdominal diameter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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