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Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a constellation of symptoms used as a measure to identify patients at increased risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality. The results of prolonged life expectancy and cumulative toxic effects of antiretroviral therapy increase the chance that HIV can cause clinical abnormalities, including MetS.


We evaluated 89 people living with HIV (PLWH; mean age 48 ± 7 years; mean duration of HIV infection 17 ± 12 years; 47% men; 66% African-American, 22% Hispanic, and 10% non-Hispanic white; and 84% unemployed) enrolled in a community-based exercise training and nutrition education program targeting individuals of low socio-economic status (SES). The prevalence of MetS characteristics and the factors associated with the presence of MetS were analyzed.


One in three (33%; 12 men and 17 women) PLWH met ATPIII criteria for MetS. In our cohort, MetS was driven by high waist circumference and elevated blood pressure. In addition, higher use of protease inhibitors, elevated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), greater self-reported daily caloric intake and consumption of carbohydrates, sugar, added sugar, and higher glycemic load were found among the individuals with MetS, compared to those without it. Elevated HbA1c and high total sugar consumption were the strongest predictors and accounted for 30% of the occurrence of MetS.


The overall prevalence of MetS in our PLWH cohort receiving antiretroviral therapy is higher than previously reported in the general population and in other PLWH cohorts. Additional work is needed to determine whether MetS is a more disease dependent or lifestyle dependent condition in PLWH.


© 2015 Tiozzo et al.; licensee BioMed Central. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.