Review: Why Perfectly Healthy People Are Using Diabetes Monitors

Fresh abundance, image from Thinkstock.

Fresh abundance, image from Thinkstock.

We found this article in Time magazine about how continuous glucose monitors are beginning to be used by people who are not living with diabetes. This may sound surprising, but it also makes some sense.

A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a federally approved medical device that tracks blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. The CGM patch has a small needle that probes the inside of a person’s arm or other area of the body, and a sensor that tracks changes to blood sugar in real-time. The data is then sent to the wearer’s smartphone or another device.

Here is a summary of the article:

  • In the “quantified-self” movement, some people say it makes sense to track their blood sugar and learn a lot about nutrition and exercise, especially given all the recent attention to the risks (like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity) associated with over-consumption of sugar and processed carbohydrates.
  • Tabb Firchau, an entrepreneur from Seattle, had been wearing a CGM for about a month at the time of the article to track (and then adjust) what was happening in his body. He said, “I’ve been trying to learn why some days I feel fantastic, and other days I don’t. I had a cinnamon roll recently and my blood glucose doubled in 60 minutes. The monitor helps you understand the costs of the decisions you are making.”
  • To obtain a CGM, people without diabetes must either convince a doctor to prescribe one or purchase them online on sites like eBay. Even if a doctor prescribes one, it’s highly unlikely insurance would cover the system for someone without diabetes. It’s estimated that CGMs cost $5–10 per day, or around $3,000 a year for replacement parts.
  • Some people believe, “There’s a need for some analytics that could process the data appropriately and provide [actionable] information to people versus a datastream every five minutes.”
  • CGM users are making their own great observations. Exercise is known to be helpful for blood sugar regulation and Damiano, a doctor who uses CGM personally, says he notices “profound” drops in his blood sugar while on walks in the woods. “If you have a meal and blood sugar rises, take a walk, it’s like magic,” he says. “It can reinforce people to think about exercise after meals.”
  • The company Sano Intelligence is planning to release a continuous glucose monitor to the general public sometime soon.

Continuous glucose monitoring could be an incredible, motivating tool to help any person make better decisions about what they eat and drink. Check out the article!