Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a major health issue worldwide accompanied by cardiovascular comorbidities. Growth differentiation factor-15 (GDF-15) is a stress-responsive cytokine expressed in cardiomyocytes, adipocytes, macrophages, and endothelial cells. Previous research in elderly subjects revealed that GDF-15 levels were associated with the MetS. However, the association between GDF-15 levels and MetS or its components in the non-elderly subjects remains unclear. In this study, a total of 279 subjects younger than 65-year-old with (n = 84) or without (n = 195) MetS were recruited. MetS was defined according to modified NCEP/ATP III criteria. The GDF-15 levels were measured by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. A multiple linear regression analysis was conducted to identify factors independently associated with GDF-15 levels. Subjects with MetS had higher GDF-15 levels than those without MetS (median (interquartile range), 1.72 ng/mL (1.38, 2.26) vs. 1.63 ng/mL (1.27, 2.07), P = 0.037). With the number of MetS components increased, the GDF-15 levels increased significantly (P for trend = 0.005). Multiple linear regression analysis revealed that the presence of MetS was positively associated with the GDF-15 levels (β = 0.132, P = 0.037). When substituting MetS with its components, only the presence of hyperglycemia was positively associated with the GDF-15 levels after adjustment for covariates (β = 0.193, P = 0.003). Taken together, the presence of the MetS in non-elderly was associated with higher GDF-15 levels. Among the MetS components, only hyperglycemia was significantly associated with the GDF-15 levels. Future longitudinal studies will be needed to explore whether GDF-15 has the potential to be a biomarker of gluco-metabolic dysfunction in non-elderly subjects.
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