Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome among African American Women in Benton Harbor, Michigan

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The emergence of the obesity epidemic worldwide has been associated with increases in metabolic syndrome, breast cancer, and type 2 diabetes in the industrialized countries. The clinical significance of these associations remains controversial because of limited human data. It is unclear whether overweight women, or those with abdominal obesity or those with metabolic syndrome, are at increased risk for breast cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In Berrien County Michigan, 72% of adults are overweight or obese. The purpose of this study was to find the prevalence of metabolic syndrome and chronic diseases among African American women who experience a high incidence of breast cancer.

Methods: 41 African American women were enrolled into the study. Women completed a demographic and breast cancer survey and a validated food frequency questionnaire. Cardiochek Analyzer was used to measure metabolic syndrome blood parameters that included glucose, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and HDL Cholesterol. Body composition was assessed with a Tanita Body Composition analyzer. IBM SPSS v.24 was used for statistical analysis. Chi-square tests were used for categorical variables.

Results: The age of the study population ranged from 23 to 84. The mean body mass index was 32.7±8.62 and mean fat percent was 42.79±6.8. Out of the total participants, 59.1% had high triglyceride levels and 74% were either overweight or obese. Total breast cancer cases previously and currently diagnosed were 41.3%. The following chronic diseases were reported: breast cancer, diabetes, hypertension, thyroid problems and migraines. Glucose and cholesterol levels were normal for most participants due to the use of medications. Prevalence of metabolic syndrome was 37.9%.

Conclusion: Majority of the participants were obese. Several participants had two or more criteria for metabolic syndrome and were at risk for cardiovascular disease. Hypertension was most frequently reported. Although blood glucose and cholesterol levels were normal because of the use of medications, most women had high body fat percent and waist circumference. Due to the complex nature of metabolic syndrome, “Systems Thinking” approach-using systems thinking tools, multiple interventions and life style changes may be appropriate for preventing and controlling chronic diseases among this cohort. Further studies will include larger sample size to establish relation between metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular and cancer risk among African American populations.


Presented at Michigan Academy of Science, Arts & Letters, Alma College, Alma, MI.

First Department

Public Health, Nutrition and Wellness

Second Department


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