Little is known about the role that red meat and processed red meat (RM) consumption plays in the development of the metabolic syndrome (MetS). The aim was to assess the relationship between RM consumption and the prevalence or incidence of the MetS and its components in a Mediterranean population at high risk of cardiovascular disease.Cross-sectional analyses were carried out at baseline and at 1-year follow-up and longitudinal analysis were conducted in a cohort of individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease from the PREDIMED study. A 137-item validated semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire, anthropometric measurements, blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose and lipid profile were evaluated both at baseline and after 1-year follow-up. The MetS was defined in accordance with the updated ATP III criteria. Subjects in the upper quartile of RM consumption were more likely to meet the criteria for the MetS at baseline (OR, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.4-3.9; P-trend = 0.001) and after 1-year follow-up (OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.3-3.7; P-trend = 0.034) compared with those in the quartile of reference, even after adjusting for potential confounders. The longitudinal analyses showed that individuals in the fourth quartile of RM consumption had an increased risk of MetS (OR, 2.7; 95% CI, 1.1-6.8; P-trend = 0.009) or central obesity incidence (OR, 8.1; 95% CI, 1.4-46.0; P-trend = 0.077) at the end of the follow-up compared to the lowest quartile.Higher RM consumption is associated with a significantly higher prevalence and incidence of MetS and central obesity in individuals at high risk of cardiovascular disease.