Increasing evidence suggests an association between elevated serum aminotransferase level and the metabolic syndrome. However, the significance of relatively low levels of aminotransferase in relation to the metabolic syndrome has not been fully investigated in the general population. We investigated the association between serum amiontransferase level and the metabolic syndrome using data from a nationwide survey in Korea. We measured serum aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels and metabolic conditions among 9771 participants aged 20 or more in the 1998 and 2001 Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. Metabolic syndrome was defined according to NCEP-ATP III criteria with a modified waist circumference cutoff (men > 90 cm; women > 80 cm). Serum aminotransferase level, even within normal range, was associated with the metabolic syndrome independent of age, body mass index, waist circumference, smoking, and alcohol intake. Compared with the lowest level (< 20 IU/L), the adjusted odds ratios (95% CI) for an AST level of 20-29, 30-39, 40-49 and > or = 50 IU/L were 1.10 (0.85-1.42), 1.37 (1.02-1.83), 1.62 (1.08-2.43), and 2.25 (1.47-3.44) in men, and 1.18 (0.99-1.41), 1.43 (1.29-1.83), 1.71 (1.09-2.68), and 2.14 (1.20-3.80) in women, respectively. Corresponding odds ratios for ALT levels were 1.27 (0.99-1.63), 1.69 (1.28-2.23), 2.17 (1.58-2.99), and 2.65 (1.96-3.58) in men, and 1.44 (1.22-1.70), 1.65 (1.26-2.15), 2.94 (1.93-4.47), and 2.25 (1.54-3.30) in women, respectively. In conclusion, elevated serum aminotransferase levels, even in the normal to near normal range, are associated with features of the metabolic syndrome.
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