Ask a Dietitian: Should I Wear a Blood Glucose Monitor?

Hey Jess! A hot topic of discussion with my friends is the current hype surrounding blood glucose monitors. As someone without diabetes, should I think about giving it a try?

blood glucose monitor

In a world of constant nutrition trends (thanks TikTok), a new contender has emerged. You might have even seen this one in the wild – a distinctive white circle on the back of people's upper arm.

This is a blood glucose monitor and the idea behind them is to monitor the body’s response to specific foods. Sounds interesting, right? But is it simply another fad, or could utilisting these monitors have benefits for all? Let’s delve into it.

What is blood glucose?

Blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, represents the concentration of glucose in the bloodstream and is influenced by the foods we eat. Remember, it’s totally normal for blood glucose levels to fluctuate throughout the day.

Let’s imagine you’re eating an apple for your mid-morning snack. The carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, which enters your bloodstream. In response, your body releases insulin to help move this energy from your blood into your cells, keeping your blood sugar levels balanced and providing fuel for your body’s functions.

What is a continuous glucose monitor?

Continuous glucose monitors (CGM), are a pocket size device which provides ongoing assessments of blood glucose levels throughout the day. These monitors are held in place by a very fine needle at the back back of the arm which is inserted into your arm.

This technology allows people, especially those with diabetes, to access live information about their blood glucose levels, without the old-school finger prick tests.

What is the main benefit of using a CGM?

The key advantage is its real-time insights. Typically worn on the back of an arm, CGMs use small sensors that send readings straight to your smartphone, enabling individuals to observe their glucose patterns and fluctuations. This immediate access to data allows users to make timely adjustments to their diet or medication. Maintaining stable blood sugar levels support sustained energy for various functions, influencing mood, focus and sleep.

How come people without diabetes are starting to wear them?

The trend, often fueled by celebrity endorsements and marketing campaigns, claims it’s a new tool for ‘personalized nutrition’. It suggests using CGMs to control blood glucose spikes from certain foods, hinting at increased health risks, such as developing type II diabetes.

Yet these campaigns often fail to explain that glucose spikes don’t directly cause the mentioned health concerns, and other factors play important roles. It’s also crucial to point out that monitoring glucose spikes does not necessarily dictate the overall quality of a meal.

So... do I need to wear a blood glucose monitor?

Currently, there’s limited evidence supporting the use of CGM’s in healthy individuals. While blood sugar monitoring for those, especially with diabetes, is undeniably beneficial, my concern is that the fixation on CGM data may lead to unnecessary dietary restrictions.

I’ve even had a friend telling me that they need to remove bananas from their diet, due to the perceived glucose spike. In these early stages, it’s crucial not to be swayed by appealing marketing rather than relying on robust scientific evidence.

TL;DR

Marketed as champions of ‘personalized nutrition’, the devices continuously track blood glucose levels, delivering live data to your smartphone. The idea is to minimize consumption of foods that cause spikes in blood glucose. However, when we eat carbohydrates, our blood sugars rise, this is totally normal. The evidence supporting the effectiveness of these monitors, especially for those without diabetes, is currently lacking, suggesting the perceived benefits may be a result of effective marketing, rather than robust science.

Jessica Stansfield, RNutr

Junior Nutrition Manager

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