A new study finds that 34% of US adults in government health surveys conducted between 1999 and 2006 had metabolic syndrome, up from 29% in similar surveys done between 1988 and 1994, says an article by Reuters Health based on a study in Diabetes Care. The syndrome is a collection of risk factors for type 2 diabetes and heart disease that includes abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, and high triglycerides.

The researchers estimate that about 50 million US adults had metabolic syndrome in 1990 and 64 million had it in 2000. The number of Americans with metabolic syndrome between 1999 and 2006 was probably about 68 million.

In general, the rise in metabolic syndrome was primarily due to growing rates of abdominal obesity and high blood pressure. The most significant increases in metabolic syndrome were found in women, and mostly in younger women, regardless of race. Among all young women between the ages of 20 and 39, 11% had metabolic syndrome in 1988-1994, whereas 17% had it in 1999-2006, the article says.

The researchers also saw an increase in metabolic syndrome among men, although not as dramatic as for women and not in any particular age group. In Mexican-Americans, there wasn’t much of a change over time, but the numbers are not good. In 1999-2006, 37% of Mexican-American men and 43% of the women had metabolic syndrome, the largest percentages for any subgroup.

The results point to a continuing need to rein in childhood obesity rates, says the article. The increase in metabolic syndrome among younger adults may, at least in part, be a reflection of the rise in childhood obesity that began in the 1980s.