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Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, and the Mediterranean Diet in a Sample of Lebanese University Students

Yahia, Najat PhD, RD, LD, CWM; Hayek, George MD; Shahin, Sandra BS

doi: 10.1097/NT.0b013e31821a82dd
International Nutrition

Metabolic syndrome is a condition characterized by the clustering of central obesity, hyperglycemia, hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Each abnormality promotes atherosclerosis independently, but when clustered together, these metabolic disorders are increasingly atherogenic and enhance the risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The prevalence of metabolic syndrome is on the rise, especially in young people, and its onset may be early in life. Therefore, universities are unique settings for early monitoring and intervention of metabolic risk factors. A pilot study was conducted among 100 Lebanese university students (62 male students and 38 female students) aged 18 to 27 years studying at Notre Dame University, Lebanon, to assess the prevalence of obesity and metabolic syndrome and to examine students' eating habits in relation to the consumption of the Mediterranean diet. Parameters measured were weight, height, waist circumference, percentage body fat, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose level. Metabolic syndrome was evaluated based on the third report of the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel. Measurements of blood lipid levels, including triglyceride, total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein, and low-density lipoprotein, were made for half of the students. Dietary intake was assessed by using a food frequency questionnaire tailored to Lebanese food. Study results indicated that 49% of male students were overweight and 7% were obese compared with 21% overweight and 3% obese female students. Only 4% of students, all men, had the full metabolic syndrome components. However, many students had 1 or more elements of it. Overall, a total of 56% of the students exhibited 1 or more components of metabolic syndrome: 22% of students had 1 component, 30% had 2 components of the syndrome and 4% had 3 components of metabolic syndrome. In comparison to the traditional Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, those students who had metabolic syndrome had higher consumption of red meat and sweets and a lower consumption of legumes.

This considerable prevalence of obesity and metabolic syndrome among students is of concern and may warrant early screening for these disorders. Students' eating habits showed deviation from the traditional Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, so promotional campaigns focusing on the traditional Mediterranean diet may be helpful and necessary

The Mediterranean diet is not always reality in the Mediterranean

Najat Yahia, PhD, RD, LD, CWM, is an assistant professor of Nutrition & Dietetics, Department of Human Environmental Studies, at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

George Hayek, MD, is a specialist in Gynecology & Infertility, and Metabolism. Dr. Hayek is also the general director of Hayek Hospital, Sin El Fil, Lebanon.

Sandra Shahin, BS, is nutritionist, Zouk Mikhael, Lebanon.

Authors' contributions: N.Y. carried out the study's design and implementation, data analysis, manuscript preparation, and total coordination of the study. G.H. contributed to study approval and laboratory blood analysis. S.S. was involved in data collection and entry.

Correspondence: Najat Yahia, PhD, RD, LD, CWM, Central Michigan University, 108 Wightman Hall, Mt Pleasant, MI 48859 (

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.