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20-09-2010 | Cardiometabolic | Article

Lymphocyte numbers predict metabolic syndrome risk


Free abstract

MedWire News: Circulating levels of lymphocytes are strongly associated with the risk for the metabolic syndrome, a UK study has found.

The authors say that their research, if confirmed, "could provide an additional prognostic indicator" for the syndrome, which is associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.

A team led by Anna Phillips (University of Birmingham, UK) obtained data on 4255 Vietnam-era US veterans, 584 of whom met criteria for the metabolic syndrome. These individuals tended to be older, be less well-educated, and were more likely to be of non-Black/non-White ethnicity than those without the syndrome.

In fully-adjusted logistic regression analyses, men with higher T-lymphocyte cell counts were more likely to exhibit the metabolic syndrome (odds ratio [OR]=2.68) than those with lower counts.

The same was true for higher versus lower counts of circulating T4 cells (OR=2.37), T8 cells (OR=1.79), and B cells (OR=1.82).

The other significant predictors for the metabolic syndrome were ethnicity, years in education, marital status, and household income in mid-life.

The average number of metabolic-syndrome components in this cohort was 1.3. Interestingly, higher circulating lymphocyte numbers were associated with a greater number of component symptoms, and this held true for all four lymphocyte subpopulations.

Commenting on their results, Phillips et al admit that the cross-sectional design of their study makes it impossible to determine the direction of the association. They say the most likely explanation is that the metabolic syndrome is a consequence of systemic inflammation, and that high lymphocyte numbers are also markers of inflammation.

Alternatively, "it is possible that high circulating lymphocyte numbers are not only implicated in the initiation and progression of inflammatory cardiovascular disease but that, as they also increase the risk of developing the metabolic syndrome, there is a feasible pathway from increased lymphocyte numbers to the syndrome to cardiovascular disease."

The team concludes: "If these associations were to emerge from prospective research, the further possibility is raised that simple lymphocyte cell counts could provide a prognostic indicator of risk for the metabolic syndrome."

The study is published in the journal Atherosclerosis.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Joanna Lyford