Most previous studies on metabolic syndrome (MetS) examined urban and high income settings. We thus investigated the prevalence of MetS among a multi-ethnic population living in a low income rural area and explored the use of visceral adiposity and anthropometric indicators to identify men and women with MetS. We recruited 10,029 individuals of nomadic Kazakhs, rural Uyghur and Han residents in Xinjiang, China. MetS was defined by the Joint Interim Statement criteria. The receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC) was used to compare the area under the ROC curve (AUC) of each index. The age-adjusted prevalence of MetS was 21.8%. The visceral adiposity index (VAI), lipid accumulation product (LAP), body adiposity index (BAI) and the waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) were significantly associated with MetS, independent of ethnic, age, and other covariates. The AUC of VAI, LAP and WHtR were all greater than 0.7, and the LAP was the index that most accurately identified MetS status in men (AUC = 0.853) and women (AUC = 0.817), with the optimal cut-offs of 34.7 and 27.3, respectively. In conclusion, the prevalence of MetS in low income rural adults of Xinjiang was high and the LAP was an effective indicator for the screening of MetS.
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