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BMC Endocr Disord. 2013 Oct 16;13:47. doi: 10.1186/1472-6823-13-47.

Insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) cut-off values and the metabolic syndrome in a general adult population: effect of gender and age: EPIRCE cross-sectional study.

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Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Hospital Clínico Universitario, A Choupana, s/n, 15706, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.



Insulin resistance has been associated with metabolic and hemodynamic alterations and higher cardio metabolic risk. There is great variability in the threshold homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) levels to define insulin resistance. The purpose of this study was to describe the influence of age and gender in the estimation of HOMA-IR optimal cut-off values to identify subjects with higher cardio metabolic risk in a general adult population.


It included 2459 adults (range 20-92 years, 58.4% women) in a random Spanish population sample. As an accurate indicator of cardio metabolic risk, Metabolic Syndrome (MetS), both by International Diabetes Federation criteria and by Adult Treatment Panel III criteria, were used. The effect of age was analyzed in individuals with and without diabetes mellitus separately. ROC regression methodology was used to evaluate the effect of age on HOMA-IR performance in classifying cardio metabolic risk.


In Spanish population the threshold value of HOMA-IR drops from 3.46 using 90th percentile criteria to 2.05 taking into account of MetS components. In non-diabetic women, but no in men, we found a significant non-linear effect of age on the accuracy of HOMA-IR. In non-diabetic men, the cut-off values were 1.85. All values are between 70th-75th percentiles of HOMA-IR levels in adult Spanish population.


The consideration of the cardio metabolic risk to establish the cut-off points of HOMA-IR, to define insulin resistance instead of using a percentile of the population distribution, would increase its clinical utility in identifying those patients in whom the presence of multiple metabolic risk factors imparts an increased metabolic and cardiovascular risk. The threshold levels must be modified by age in non-diabetic women.

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