Background: Metabolic syndrome (MetS) and functional limitation have been linked, but whether and how specific components of MetS and associated factors, such as inflammation, drive this relationship is unknown.Methods: Data are from 2,822 men and women, aged 70-79 years, participating in the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study and followed for 5 years. Presence of MetS at baseline was defined according to the National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines. Interleukin-6, C-reactive protein, and body fat mass were measured at baseline. Measures of physical performance, including 400-m walk time, 20-m walking speed, and the Health ABC physical performance battery (PPB) were obtained at baseline and examination years 2, 4, and 6.Results: A total of 1,036 (37%) individuals met criteria for MetS. MetS was associated with poorer physical performance at baseline. Effect estimates between MetS and gait speed, and components of the Health ABC PPB (standing balance and repeated sit-to-stand performance) were modestly attenuated after adjustment for inflammation. All associations were attenuated to nonsignificance after adding total body fat mass to the model. Longitudinal analyses yielded similar results. Individual MetS component analysis revealed that abdominal obesity explained the largest fraction of the variation in physical performance.Conclusions: Although inflammatory biomarkers partially accounted for the relationship between MetS and aspects of physical performance, overall findings implicate adiposity as the primary factor explaining poorer physical performance in older adults with MetS. © 2013 The Author.