In order to characterize the metabolic syndrome it becomes necessary to establish a number of diagnostic criteria. Because of its impact on cardiovascular morbidity/mortality, considerable attention has been focussed on the dyslipidemia accompanying the metabolic syndrome. The aim of this review is to highlight the fundamental aspects of the pathophysiology, diagnosis, and the treatment of the metabolic syndrome dyslipidemia with recommendations to clinicians. The clinical expression of the metabolic syndrome dyslipidemia is characterized by hypertriglyceridemia and low levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C). In addition, metabolic syndrome dyslipidemia is associated with high levels of apolipoprotein (apo) B-100-rich particles of a particularly atherogenic phenotype (small dense low-density lipoprotein- cholesterol [LDL-C]. High levels of triglyceride-rich particles (very low-density lipoprotein) are also evident both at baseline and in overload situations (postprandial hyperlipidemia). Overall, the 'quantitative' dyslipidemia characterized by hypertriglyceridemia and low levels of HDL-C and the 'qualitative' dyslipidemia characterized by high levels of apo B-100- and triglyceride-rich particles, together with insulin resistance, constitute an atherogenic triad in patients with the metabolic syndrome. The therapeutic management of the metabolic syndrome, regardless of the control of the bodyweight, BP, hyperglycemia or overt diabetes mellitus, aims at maintaining optimum plasma lipid levels. Therapeutic goals are similar to those for high-risk situations because of the coexistence of multiple risk factors. The primary goal in treatment should be achieving an LDL-C level of <100 mg/dL (or <70 mg/dL in cases with established ischemic heart disease or risk equivalents). A further goal is increasing the HDL-C level to ≥40 mg/dL in men or 50 mg/dL in women. A non-HDL-C goal of 130 mg/dL should also be aimed at in cases of hypertriglyceridemia. Lifestyle interventions, such as maintaining an adequate diet, and a physical activity program, constitute an essential part of management. Nevertheless, when pharmacologic therapy becomes necessary, fibrates and HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) are the most effective drugs in controlling the metabolic syndrome hyperlipidemia, and are thus the drugs of first choice. Fibrates are effective in lowering triglycerides and increasing HDL-C levels, the two most frequent abnormalities associated with the metabolic syndrome, and statins are effective in lowering LDL-C levels, even though hypercholesterolemia occurs less frequently. In addition, the combination of fibrates and statins is highly effective in controlling abnormalities of the lipid profile in patients with the metabolic syndrome. © 2007 Adis Data Information BV. All rights reserved.