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Although there is plenty of evidence of the association between metabolic syndrome (MS) and cardiovascular disease, the relationship between alcohol consumption and MS is still questioned. The few publications with respect to the elderly seem to indicate that alcohol consumption is unassociated with MS. The aim of this study was to assess the association between alcohol consumption and the prevalence and incidence of MS, as well as its components in a large sample of Italian elderly people.This is a multicenter study on a population-based sample of Italian people aged 65-84 years. The Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging (ILSA) included a prevalence phase in 1992 and an incidence phase from 1995 to 1996. The median length of follow-up was 3.5 years. In the present study, the analysis included 1321 men grouped into five alcohol consumption classes: abstainers, and those consuming ≤12, 13-24, 25-47 or ≥48 g of alcohol in a day. Among the 1122 women considered, the last two of the above five categories were pooled together (>24 g/day). MS was defined according to ATP III criteria. All statistical analyses were stratified by gender.Adjusted odds ratios showed that categorized alcohol consumption was not significantly associated with the prevalence and incidence of MS when compared with abstainers in either gender. For the MS incidence survey, three of five components (systolic pressure, glycemia and waist circumference) proved to be significantly and harmfully affected by alcohol consumption in males, whereas no such significant association emerged in females.These results suggest that alcohol can modify an individual's metabolic condition and that, even among the elderly, men might be more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than women.