Values of insulin-mediated glucose disposal vary continuously throughout a population of apparently healthy persons, and a difference of > or = 600% exists between the most insulin-sensitive and the most insulin-resistant persons. Approximately 50% of this variability can be attributed to differences in adiposity (25%) and fitness (25%), with the remaining 50% likely of genetic origin. The more insulin-resistant a person, the more likely that he or she will develop some degree of glucose intolerance, high triacylglycerol and low HDL concentrations, essential hypertension, and procoagulant and proinflammatory states, all of which increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). To identify persons at greater CVD risk because of these abnormalities, the World Health Organization, the Adult Treatment Panel III, and the International Diabetes Federation created a new diagnostic category, the metabolic syndrome. Although the components of the 3 versions of the metabolic syndrome are similar, the specific values for those components that define an abnormality are somewhat different, and the manner in which the abnormalities are used to make a positive diagnosis varies dramatically from version to version. This review will summarize the similarities in and differences between the 3 versions of the metabolic syndrome, point out that the clustering of components that make up all 3 definitions of the metabolic syndrome is not accidental and occurs only in insulin-resistant persons, develop the argument that diagnosing the metabolic syndrome in a person has neither pedagogical nor clinical utility, and suggest that the clinical emphasis should be on treating effectively any CVD risk factor that is present.