Are continuous glucose monitors the new fad in fitness?


Last April, ahead of the postponed Tokyo Olympics, pharmaceutical giant Abbott issued a press release announcing that the world’s fastest marathon runner, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya, was using their Libre Sense sports glucose biosensor. This has sparked a lot of curiosity about glucose meters in the world of distance running, which is also the world’s largest recreational mass participation sport. Earlier this year, Indian cricketer Shreyas Iyer had a black mark on his triceps, just above the elbow, visible every time he played. This was noticed by millions of viewers on television and thousands in the stadium. And so the continuous glucose monitor entered the mainstream fitness conversation in India.

A continuous glucose monitor is a medical device with a small sensor that is inserted under the skin for continuous monitoring of blood glucose, says Dr. Amrita Ghosh, consultant diabetologist at Fortis C-Doc Hospital in New Delhi. “The sensor measures the level of interstitial glucose, which is the glucose found in the fluid between cells, every few minutes. The transmitter wirelessly sends information to a monitor that can be attached to an insulin pump or a separate device,” says Ghosh.

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dr. Sunil Kumar Mishra, director of endocrinology and diabetology at Medanta Hospital in Gurgaon, adds that a continuous glucose monitor can help you stay on top of your diabetes, and is especially useful for those with complex type 1 and type 2 diabetes. insulin regimen. “It helps with diabetes because people can now see the variations that happen with each meal and physical activity. It further helps in identifying and recording changes in blood sugar levels,” he says.

We already have devices that track sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, temperature, steps, running, cycling and swimming, among other things. Now wellness start-ups have repurposed the continuous glucose monitor into a health and fitness tracker that can track your metabolic health through blood glucose levels. “We track spikes, dips and how long you stay at target blood glucose levels in real time to determine your metabolic health through continuous glucose on your body and an app on your smartphone,” says Manan Chandan, senior director of new initiatives, HealthifyMe. healthcare start-up.

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Ultrahuman and Sugar.fit are two other big start-ups in India that offer this metabolic health tracker. Of the three, Ultrahuman is the most visible brand due to its aggressive social media campaigns and multiple collaborations with select celebrities, influencers and athletes, including cricketer Iyer. Shivtosh Kumar, co-founder and head of product at Sugar.fit, says real-time data collected by glucose meters can help increase our understanding of the impact of different foods, fitness, sleep and other metabolic activities in general. “Based on this data, we can create a precise nutrition plan for ourselves that helps us understand the time when energy is needed for fitness activity, as well as to understand the quality of sleep. So when you plan to hit the gym, you can check your glucose levels and see if you’re optimally fueled for your workout, and if you’re not, you can consume a pre-workout snack that gives you the desired spike in glucose levels,” says Kumar.

Glucose monitors measure blood glucose levels, and the app you use aggregates other health data like steps, heart rate, and exercise from other health apps on your phone. Behind the scenes, an algorithm processes this data and gives you a metabolic score. The longer you stay at your target blood glucose level and the fewer spikes and drops you have, the higher your metabolic score, Chandan explains. The higher your score, the better your metabolic health, he adds. “Tracking our metabolic health helps us measure how our metabolism is performing under different circumstances. This data will help us improve and implement the desired changes we need to live healthier lives, because you can’t improve what you can’t measure,” says Kumar.

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While dr. While Ghosh believes a continuous glucose monitor is a useful monitoring tool for pre-diabetic and diabetic fitness enthusiasts, she doesn’t see any particular benefit for those with normoglycemia (normal blood sugar levels), unless the data collected is used for research or experimental studies. “It’s now becoming a new social media-supported technology for otherwise metabolically healthy people, especially fitness enthusiasts, to wear continuous glucose monitors to measure blood glucose variation to measure their diet by blood glucose effect,” she says.

Most people who use glucose testing seem to do so out of curiosity. That’s what drove Raunak Jain, a 30-year-old executive from Bengaluru, to use the Ultrahuman monitor for two weeks (the typical lifespan of these devices). “I wanted to see how it could actually help me reach my fitness goals,” says Jain, who leads an active, lean and fit lifestyle. He adds that he was able to figure out which foods caused glucose spikes and which foods helped keep levels within the target range.

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Mumbai-based actor and director Shray Rai Tiwari (34) was brought in as a partner by Ultrahuman because he wanted to know what blood glucose levels mean and how to monitor fluctuations. Tiwari says he was able to recognize the nocturnal hypoglycemia (drop in blood glucose) he experienced because of the monitor. “The app suggested a change in my diet and that stopped the glucose drop,” he says. Chandan from HealthifyMe also stopped his nighttime glucose spikes by changing his meal times and making small adjustments to the foods he ate.

“If we don’t understand our unique metabolism, we won’t be able to make precise changes in our diet, exercise and sleep. And impaired metabolism is the root cause of many diseases in life,” says Kumar. But one of the biggest obstacles to continuous glucose monitoring is the high cost of the device. A year’s supply of Ultrahumans tracks costs 1,04,999 and 12 weeks supply is tied up 24,999.

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There is also the fact that the device needs to be changed every 8 to 14 days, and it has a needle attached to it. Users, even those who have worked with the brands, have complained of a pinprick sensation and slight discomfort for the first few days after the device is installed, and are concerned about the invasive nature of the sensor. Chandan himself thinks it might be wise not to play contact sports with the device on. Normal workouts, strength training, running and cycling would be fine though.

Most users would need a lot of knowledge about these monitors, as well as a lot of interpretation from trainers and nutritionists, in order to understand the metabolic results, spikes and drops of glucose. With all this in mind, Tiwari wants to get another continuous glucose monitor and monitor his metabolic health and glucose levels again, but Jain refuses to spend more money.

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The leading teams and founders of these wellness start-ups are aware of the prohibitive cost of hardware. Kumar believes one way to make them more affordable would be to extend the life of the sensors. HealthifyMe is working to create an AI-powered virtual glucose monitor that can predict spikes and dips based on information gathered from the sensor used. Tushar Vashisht, co-founder and CEO of HealthifyMe, says, “Once the virtual sensors are ready, users would only need to use the physical sensor once every 12 weeks to recalibrate their changes. This is how this technology can become affordable and accessible to everyone.”

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author The Shivfit Wayfunctional fitness book.



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