We investigated the relationship of metabolic syndrome (MetS) and its individual components with incidence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and its progression to dementia in a large longitudinal Italian population-based sample with a 3.5-year follow-up. A total of 2097 participants from a sample of 5632 65-84-year-old subjects from the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging were evaluated. MetS was defined according to the Third Adults Treatment Panel of the National Cholesterol Education Program criteria. MCI, dementia, Alzheimer's disease (AD), and vascular dementia (VaD) were classified using current published criteria. Among MCI patients those with MetS (N=49) had a higher risk of progression to dementia (HR, 4.40; 95% CI, 1.30-14.82) compared with those without MetS (N=72). After a multivariate adjustment, the risk in MCI patients with MetS approximately doubled (multivariate adjusted HR, 7.80, 95% CI 1.29-47.20) compared with those MCI without MetS. Finally, among non-cognitively impaired individuals there were no significant differences in risks of developing MCI in those who were affected by MetS (N=608) in comparison with those without MetS (N=837), as well as excluding those individuals with undernutrition or low inflammatory status with or without undernutrition. In our population, among MCI patients the presence of MetS independently predicted an increased risk of progression to dementia over 3.5 years of follow-up.