OBJECTIVE: The metabolic syndrome is a major public health challenge and identifies persons at risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The aim of this study was to examine the association between age at menarche and the metabolic syndrome (IDF and NCEP ATP III classification) and its components.DESIGN: 1536 women aged 32 to 81 years of the German population based KORA F4 study were investigated. Data was collected by standardized interviews, physical examinations, and whole blood and serum measurements. RESULTS: Young age at menarche was significantly associated with elevated body mass index (BMI), greater waist circumference, higher fasting glucose levels, and 2 hour glucose (oral glucose tolerance test), even after adjusting for the difference between current BMI and BMI at age 25. The significant effect on elevated triglycerides and systolic blood pressure was attenuated after adjustment for the BMI change. Age at menarche was inversely associated with the metabolic syndrome adjusting for age (p-values: <0.001 IDF, 0.003 NCEP classification) and additional potential confounders including lifestyle and reproductive history factors (p-values: 0.001, 0.005). Associations remain significant when additionally controlling for recollected BMI at age 25 (p-values: 0.008, 0.033) or the BMI change since age 25 (p-values: 0.005, 0.022). CONCLUSION: Young age at menarche might play a role in the development of the metabolic syndrome. This association is only partially mediated by weight gain and increased BMI. A history of early menarche may help to identify women at risk for the metabolic syndrome.