BACKGROUND AND AIMS: The role of diet in the aetiology of metabolic syndrome (MetS) is not well understood. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the relationship between adherence to the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) and MetS. METHODS AND RESULTS: A cross-sectional study was conducted with 808 high cardiovascular risk participants of the Reus PREDIMED Centre. MetS was defined by the updated National Cholesterol and Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III criteria. An inverse association between quartiles of adherence to the MedDiet (14-point score) and the prevalence of MetS (P for trend<0.001) was observed. After adjusting for age, sex, total energy intake, smoking status and physical activity, participants with the highest score of adherence to the MedDiet (>/=9 points) had the lowest odds ratio of having MetS (OR [95% CI] of 0.44 [0.27-0.70]) compared to those in the lowest quartile. Participants with the highest MedDiet adherence had 47 and 54% lower odds of having low HDL-c and hypertriglyceridemia MetS criteria, respectively, than those in the lowest quartile. Some components of the MedDiet, such as olive oil, legumes and red wine were associated with lower prevalence of MetS. CONCLUSION: Higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a significantly lower odds ratio of having MetS in a population with a high risk of cardiovascular disease.