Research Article: Metabolic syndrome and its components among rheumatoid arthritis patients: A comprehensive updated systematic review and meta-analysis

Date Published: March 23, 2017

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Jamal Hallajzadeh, Saeid Safiri, Mohammad Ali Mansournia, Maliheh Khoramdad, Neda Izadi, Amir Almasi-Hashiani, Reza Pakzad, Erfan Ayubi, Mark J. M. Sullman, Nahid Karamzad, Hassan Ashktorab.


Estimating the current global prevalence of metabolic syndrome (MetS), and its components, among rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients is necessary in order to formulate preventative strategies and to ensure there are adequate community resources available for these patients. Furthermore, the association between RA and MetS is controversial and has not previously been comprehensively assessed. Therefore, the present study aimed to: 1) determine the prevalence of MetS, and its components, among RA patients across the world 2) update the odds ratio of MetS in RA patients, compared to healthy controls, using a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis.

International databases, including: the Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, Embase, CINAHL and other relevant databases were searched to identify English language articles which reported the prevalence and risk of MetS in RA patients between January 2000 and August 2016. The meta-analysis only included studies which clearly described the time and location of the study, utilised adequate sampling strategies, and appropriate statistical analyses.

The meta-analyses of prevalence (70 studies [n = 12612]) and risk (43 studies [n = 35220]) of MetS in RA patients were undertaken separately. The overall pooled prevalence of MetS was 30.65% (95% CI: 27.87–33.43), but this varied from 14.32% (95% CI: 10.59–18.05) to 37.83% (95% CI: 31.05–44.61), based upon the diagnostic criteria used. The prevalence of MetS also varied slightly between males (31.94%, 95% CI: 24.37–39.51) and females (33.03%, 95% CI: 28.09–37.97), but this was not statistically significant. The overall pooled odds ratio (OR) of MetS in RA patients, compared to healthy controls, was 1.44 (95% CI: 1.20–1.74), but this ranged from 0.70 (95% CI: 0.27–1.76) to 4.09 (95% CI: 2.03–8.25), depending on the criteria used. The mean age and diagnostic criteria of MetS were identified as sources of heterogeneity in the estimated odds ratios between studies (P<0.05). According to the high prevalence of MetS in RA patients, and high risk of MetS, measuring metabolic syndrome in RA patients is strongly recommended. Furthermore, as high waist circumference (WC) is the most common metabolic syndrome component, more attention must be paid to nutrition and weight loss among those with RA.

Partial Text

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is comprised of a group of risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, including insulin resistance, abdominal obesity, dyslipidemia, blood pressure, and impaired fasting glucose[1]. The most common clinical manifestations of MetS include: abdominal obesity, hypertriglyceridaemia, reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), hyperglycaemia, and high blood pressure (BP)[2]. MetS is responsible for a three-fold increase in the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) and increased mortality from CVD, as well as all-causes, compared to the general population [3]. MetS is also associated with a fourfold increased relative risk of developing diabetes [4, 5]. There are eight commonly used definitions for MetS, but the National Cholesterol Education Programme-Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP ATP III) and the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) definitions are the most commonly used [6]. These definitions have many similarities, but they differ on several components and on the cut-off points used (Table 1).

After removing duplicates, our primary search found 237 relevant articles. Following the exclusion of all non-eligible studies a total of 70 cross-sectional studies and 43 comparative cross-sectional studies, from 25 countries, were retained to estimate the prevalence and risk of metabolic syndrome among RA patients. The details of our study selection method are shown in Fig 1. The majority of the studies reporting MetS prevalence (55 studies) included both male and female patients who were aged >18 years. The lowest and highest prevalence of MetS in rheumatoid arthritis patients reported were 10.6% and 55.5%, respectively. More detailed information about each included studies can be found in Table 2.

The present study found a MetS prevalence of 30.65% among RA patients, but this rate ranged from 14.32% to 37.83%, depending upon the MetS definition used. The relatively high degree of variability in MetS prevalence, according to the MetS definition used, is clearly a substantial issue that permeates the literature on this topic. For example, research in Asia has reported the prevalence of MetS to be 45.2% among RA patients using the NCEP-ATP III criteria [21] and 19.6% when using the WHO definition[22]. In Europe the prevalence rates reported, according to criteria used were: AHA (27.4%), IDF (35.2%), IDF-AHA (37.2%) and NCEP-ATP III (23.0%)[23]. Furthermore, based on the NCE-P-ATP III criteria, Oliveira et al. found that the prevalence of MetS among RA patients in South American was 51.4%, but using the IDF criteria this proportion was 53.4% [24]. Much larger differences have been reported in research from the UK, with MetS prevalence ranging from 8.2% to 42.6% [25], depending upon the definition used. Moreover, in a cross-sectional study which used three definitions (NCEP-ATP III, IDF and AACE) the prevalence of MetS in RA patients varied from 24.6 to 30.7% [26]. Finally, the results of a case- control study in 2013 showed that the frequency of MetS in RA patients and the control group were 30% versus 39% (respectively) when using the ATP III definition and 35% versus 40% (respectively) when using the IDF [27] definition.

The present study has a number of advantages over the previous meta-analysis, including: 1) All of the published studies were included in this meta-analysis. 2) The prevalence of metabolic syndrome was investigated in RA patients from across the world. 3) This study reported the prevalence of MetS in RA patients based upon eight separate definitions. 4) This paper included both comparative cross-sectional and cross-sectional studies. 5) The odds ratio for metabolic syndrome was pooled across a large number of studies.

1) Several countries have not assessed the prevalence of MetS in RA patients and therefore data from those countries could not be presented in this study. 2) The crude (unadjusted) odds ratio for MetS in RA patients was reported, as different studies used different set(s) of confounders.

The prevalence of MetS in RA patients was relatively high, but did not vary significantly by gender. According to the high prevalence of MetS in RA patients and the high risk of it, monitoring and testing for metabolic syndrome in these patients is clearly recommended. As the most important component of metabolic syndrome was found to be a high WC, it is clearly important to pay more attention to patient nutrition and weight loss. Finally, mean age and the diagnostic criteria used to diagnose MetS were identified as sources of heterogeneity in the estimated risk of MetS.




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