Metabolic syndrome is characterized by multiple risk factors and is associated with increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The rapid change in the lifestyle and food habits of Chinese people has resulted in metabolic syndrome becoming one of the most widespread health challenges in China. Recently, the cardio-ankle vascular index (CAVI) was developed as a new parameter reflecting arterial stiffness and providing an index of vascular status. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of metabolic syndrome on CAVI. A total of 222 Chinese subjects aged 50-92 years participated in this study. We measured CAVI and examined blood samples to define metabolic syndrome according to the International Diabetes Federation criteria. CAVI in the subjects with abnormal waist circumference was significantly higher than that obtained in the normal subjects (P<0.01). In the abnormal high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) group, CAVI was significantly increased (P<0.01) compared to the normal HDL-C group. CAVI showed a positive correlation with waist circumference and increased significantly with the number of metabolic syndrome components. In conclusion, subjects with metabolic syndrome have a high CAVI that indicated arterial stiffness and is closely associated with an increase in the number of metabolic syndrome risk factors. Elevated abdominal obesity and low HDL-C are the main players affecting arterial stiffness in the middle-aged and elderly Chinese. These findings suggest that interaction of the individual components of metabolic syndrome plays a role in the relationship between metabolic syndrome and arterial stiffness.