Homeostatic model assessment (HOMA) is a method for assessing β-cell function and insulin resistance (IR) from basal (fasting) glucose and insulin or C-peptide concentrations. It has been reported in >500 publications, 20 times more frequently for the estimation of IR than β-cell function.
This article summarizes the physiological basis of HOMA, a structural model of steady-state insulin and glucose domains, constructed from physiological dose responses of glucose uptake and insulin production. Hepatic and peripheral glucose efflux and uptake were modeled to be dependent on plasma glucose and insulin concentrations. Decreases in β-cell function were modeled by changing the β-cell response to plasma glucose concentrations. The original HOMA model was described in 1985 with a formula for approximate estimation. The computer model is available but has not been as widely used as the approximation formulae. HOMA has been validated against a variety of physiological methods.
We review the use and reporting of HOMA in the literature and give guidance on its appropriate use (e.g., cohort and epidemiological studies) and inappropriate use (e.g., measuring β-cell function in isolation). The HOMA model compares favorably with other models and has the advantage of requiring only a single plasma sample assayed for insulin and glucose.
In conclusion, the HOMA model has become a widely used clinical and epidemiological tool and, when used appropriately, it can yield valuable data. However, as with all models, the primary input data need to be robust, and the data need to be interpreted carefully.