I felt a special kind of awe, then panic, watching my glucose levels skyrocket for the first time after relishing a cold beer on a sweltering summer evening. It was a biological push notification from the fluid just beneath my skin that the carbohydrate-packed beverage was interfering with efforts to maintain my health and weight.
For years, people with Type 1 diabetes have worn continuous glucose monitors, or CGMs, to track blood sugar spikes and make sure they’re getting enough insulin. CGMs are small patches with tiny needles for sensors that prick the skin and are generally worn on the stomach or back of the arm.
Now, a wave of tech companies are selling CGMs to the public. That made me curious: Would this work for me? What would I learn?
The devices, linked to apps with personalized analytics and meal planning advice, are being touted as a behavior-changing path to better health and athletic performance, consistent energy, and overcoming the dreaded weight-loss-weight-gain cycle once and for all.
For people without diabetes, tracking the glycemic response to meals can pinpoint which foods significantly spike blood sugar, leading to a subsequent blood sugar crash and then lethargy. That excess insulin and glucose in the blood stream can also signal to the body to put the surplus sugar in storage, causing weight gain.
The Lumen analyzes breath to determine whether the user is burning carbs or fat.(Lumen)
The new-age, health-monitoring ecosystem sprawls well beyond CGMs, leaving traditional step counters in the dust. A tracker in the form of a sleek, titanium ring made by Ultrahuman monitors movement and sleep — and can be paired with a glucose-monitoring patch. Whoop’s wearable technology, which tracks respiratory rate, blood oxygen, and other health metrics, can embed in a sports bra. Another device, the Lumen, analyzes breath to determine whether the user is burning carbs or fat.
The market for this technology is huge, from Olympic athletes to office workers looking to avoid the post-lunch lull. The nation has long been in the throes of what is often referred to as an obesity epidemic. From 2017 through 2021, 26% of Americans, on average, said they were “seriously trying to lose weight,” and more than half said they would like to, according to Gallup surveys. And about 96 million U.S. adults have prediabetes, increasing their risk of developing chronic diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prediabetes affects people who are both lean and overweight, though …….