Gender differences in metabolic risk factor prevalence in a South African student population
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We determined selected risk factors for the metabolic syndrome and assessed the metabolic risk status (using IDF criteria) of third-year physiology students at Stellenbosch University (88 males and 178 females). Outcome measures included anthropometry [body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio], blood pressure (BP), resting pulse rate, and fasting blood glucose, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In addition, students completed a lifestyle questionnaire. A number of gender-based differences were found, with male students displaying a greater incidence of risk factors for the metabolic syndrome: 6% of males versus 3% of females displayed a cluster of three risk factors. Twenty-five per cent of female students (but only 14% of males) exhibited waist circumferences above the accepted range, which was positively correlated, for males and females, with both systolic and diastolic BP, and in females only, also with total cholesterol levels. Male students on average exercised more than their female counterparts, but also exhibited poorer eating habits. Average blood triglyceride levels for both male and female students exceeded the accepted threshold (1.85 ± 1.62 mmol/l and 2.15 ± 1.79 mmol/l, respectively). We concluded that metabolic risk factors were evident in a much younger population than commonly expected. Moreover, the gender-specific differences observed may impact on future risk assessment and preventative measures adopted.