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Benefits of Continuous Glucose Monitors for Non Diabetics, and Why to Get One

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

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One of the post popular wearable biometric devices available is called a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). It is used to monitor the body's blood sugar levels in response to various external stimuli. You've likely seen advertisements and influencers using these devices and claiming health and longevity optimization, but you may be curious for more details. In this article we are going to break down everything you need to know about CGMs.

  1. What is a continuous glucose monitor?

  2. How does a continuous glucose monitor work?

  3. Who are continuous glucose monitors for?

  4. What are the benefits of a continuous glucose monitor for non-diabetic individuals?

  5. Alternatives to a continuous glucose monitor

  6. Which continuous glucose monitor is the best?

What is a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)?

Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) are wearable devices that continuously measure glucose levels in the interstitial fluid beneath the skin. They consist of a small sensor inserted into the skin which communicates wirelessly with a receiver or a smartphone. Initially developed for diabetic patients, CGMs have gained popularity due to their ability to provide real-time glucose data.

How does a CGM Work?

A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) works by measuring glucose levels in the interstitial fluid, which is the fluid found in the tissue just beneath the skin. Placement is key - physicians typically recommend the arm or abdomen with the back of the arm being preferred by most people. The electrode in the sensor detects the glucose levels in the interstitial fluid. It does so by measuring the electrical current produced by an enzyme called glucose oxidase, which reacts with glucose. This reaction generates a small electrical signal proportional to the glucose concentration. The sensor then sends the glucose data to a receiver, a dedicated device, or a smartphone application where it can be displayed and analyzed.

In the case of most commercially available CGMs, the companies then offer all sorts of advice and coaching around what to eat, when to eat it, and when or how to exercise.

Who are CGMs For?

Historically, CGMs have been used by individuals with diabetes who need to continuously monitor blood sugar in order to remain within safe levels. However, advancements in technology and health-span research clearly show links between chronic disease and dysregulated blood sugar - spurring people from all walks to take active participation in understanding their bodies. A CGM might be for you if:

  1. You are Pre-diabetic.

  2. You are an Athletes or Fitness Enthusiasts.

  3. You want to manage your weight and metabolic health.

  4. You want to manage stress and well-being.

Benefits of CGMs for Non-Diabetics

CGMs offer several benefits for non-diabetic individuals:

  1. Fitness and Performance Optimization: CGMs can help athletes and fitness enthusiasts monitor their glucose response during exercise, allowing them to adjust their nutrition strategies and optimize performance.

  2. Personalized Nutrition: CGMs provide insights into how different foods affect blood glucose levels, enabling non-diabetic users to make informed dietary choices for weight management and overall well-being.

  3. Sleep and Stress Management: CGMs can help identify the impact of sleep quality and stress on glucose levels, allowing individuals to make lifestyle adjustments for better stress management and overall health.

  4. Preventive Health: CGMs can detect early signs of impaired glucose tolerance, providing an opportunity for non-diabetics to make lifestyle modifications to prevent the development of diabetes or other metabolic conditions.

  5. Hypoglycemia Awareness: CGMs can alert non-diabetic users to episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), helping prevent complications and promoting timely intervention.

What are the limitations of consumer CGMs?

As with most things in life, these are not perfect devices. There are some downsides to starting on the path towards metabolic mastery using a continuous glucose monitor. The most pertinent are:

  1. Cost: CGM devices and associated expenses can be a significant financial burden, making them less accessible to some non-diabetic individuals.

  2. Calibration and Accuracy: CGM readings may require calibration and can have inherent inaccuracies compared to traditional fingerstick glucose meters.

  3. Skin Irritation: Some users may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions at the sensor insertion site.

  4. Privacy Concerns: The collection and sharing of personal health data through CGMs raise privacy and security considerations that need to be addressed.

  5. Data alone does not produce health: even with the most accurate and up to date biomarker information, it is still up to you to modify behavior accordingly.

What are alternatives to a CGM?

In order to decide if a CGM is right for you, it's worth it to consider alternative approaches to understanding your metabolic health. Here are a few ideas to consider or try before making the investment into a CGM:

  1. Self-Monitoring Blood Glucose (SMBG): SMBG involves using a blood glucose meter to measure glucose levels through a fingerstick blood sample. Non-diabetic individuals can periodically monitor their blood glucose before and after meals or during specific situations to gain insights into their glucose response. Although SMBG provides discrete measurements rather than continuous data, it can still be useful for identifying trends and understanding the impact of dietary choices or physical activity.

  2. Continuous Glucose Monitoring Apps: Several smartphone applications use algorithms to estimate glucose levels based on factors like food intake, physical activity, and heart rate variability. These apps leverage data from wearable devices like fitness trackers or smartwatches. While not as accurate as CGMs, these apps offer a non-invasive and more accessible option for non-diabetic individuals to track glucose trends and patterns.

  3. Non-Invasive Glucose Monitoring Devices: Various non-invasive devices are being developed to measure glucose levels without the need for fingerstick blood samples or implantable sensors. These devices utilize technologies such as optical sensors, transdermal sensors, or spectroscopy to measure glucose through the skin or other bodily fluids. While these alternatives are still in development and may not be as accurate as CGMs, they hold promise for non-diabetic individuals seeking convenient and non-invasive glucose monitoring options in the future.

  4. Personalized Health Tracking Devices: Some health-tracking wearables and smartwatches offer features that enable users to track metrics related to fitness, sleep, stress, and heart rate variability. By monitoring these factors along with subjective experiences like energy levels, mood, and cognitive function, individuals can indirectly assess their glucose management and overall well-being. Although not specific to glucose monitoring, these devices provide a holistic view of health that can aid non-diabetics in making informed lifestyle choices.

  5. Clinical Testing: For individuals with specific concerns or seeking in-depth analysis, consulting with a healthcare professional for clinical testing may be an alternative option. These tests may involve oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT), HbA1c measurements, or other blood tests to evaluate glucose metabolism, insulin sensitivity, or other relevant markers.

Which CGM is the Best?

So, now you know the benefits of getting a CGM as a non-diabetic, you've gone through the possible alternatives, and you've decided it's time to make the leap. Here are out top picks for consumer CGMs.

  1. Dexcom G6: Widely recognized for its accuracy, ease of use, and integration with various devices.

  2. Medtronic Guardian Connect: Provides continuous glucose readings and smartphone integration for real-time data access.

  3. Abbott FreeStyle Libre 2: Builds on the FreeStyle Libre with added alarms for high and low glucose levels.

  4. Eversense: Features an implantable sensor and a removable smart transmitter for long-term continuous glucose monitoring.

  5. Levels: Smartphone app for full tracking of lifestyle habits and their effect on blood glucose. Levels also participates in anonymized clinical research, and you can opt in to share your data if desired (not a requirement).

Do you have another brand that we've missed? Do you have reviews of the various systems and what you've learned about your metabolism? Let us know in the comments!

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