Is continuous glucose monitoring the next big craze in health tracking?
What is continuous glucose monitoring and does it really work? This week we take a look at continuous glucose monitoring and the brands aiming to help you buy a CGM and start tracking your glucose levels.
From Pedometers, to the first fitbit, the apple watch and sleep tracking rings. The market for wearable technology is expanding quickly, fuelled by a growing thirst for a more personalised approach to health and fitness… and the next big player might be here.
What is continuous glucose monitoring?
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a small patch, which when stuck to your arm senses your blood sugar via a small (invasive) filament. CGMs have been used in the clinical setting for the management of diabetes since the late 90s, however a number of start-ups are now promising to help everyone unlock the secrets hidden in their blood sugar, by pairing CGMs with mobile applications. By revealing the effect your lifestyle has on your blood sugar levels, they’re aiming to help you maintain consistent energy levels throughout the day and boost your athletic performance. Could CGMs be the key to banishing those lethargic moments from your life and reaching your athletic peak?
Going beyond diabetes management
While this level of tracking may seem extreme for those who don’t suffer from diabetes, it could be a great tool for addressing the increasing number of people at risk of the disease. In the USA, an estimated 88 million adults have blood glucose levels that fall within the pre-diabetic range and the vast majority of them are unaware of it (84% according to the CDC). In addition to diabetes, weight loss, weight gain and Alzheimer’s disease (amongst other conditions) also have links to out-of-range blood glucose.
While many of the start-ups we found are either pre-launch or carrying out beta-testing, they are already getting some serious attention. Supersapiens, a US based brand, which launched at the beginning of this year, already has 2,800 customers including 12 Premier League football clubs and a number of Tour de France cyclists. Meanwhile, Levels (also from the US) has a waitlist of over 100,000 people ready and waiting to take the plunge into continuous glucose monitoring when they launch this year. For those in the UK, myLevels is currently running beta-testing which you can sign up to be part of here.
Meaningful insights or just more data
When it comes to wearables, collecting data is often the easier part. Turning that data into meaningful, actionable insights that can be used to improve people’s lives is what really creates stand out brands in the space. So what are these brands doing with your data?
All of them allow users to track their blood sugar levels throughout the day through their mobile apps. Supersapiens has a strong focus on athletes, aiming to help you optimise your eating patterns for sports performance and analysing how exercise affects your blood glucose. In addition to daily tracking, Levels and myLevels also provide scores for foods based on how they affect the user’s blood glucose. MyLevels sends users boxes of 14 different food products to see how they affect their blood sugar levels, and sets them daily challenges that might reduce their blood sugar levels.
The cost of knowing yourself
While the proposition of having your personal health data at your fingertips might seem an enticing one, everything comes at a price. And for continuous glucose monitoring, you’re going to have to be willing to stump up a pretty penny. A Supersapiens subscription, including two 14-day CGMs, will cost you $140 per month. The first month of a Levels subscription will set you back $399, followed by an ongoing monthly fee of $199 (the first month is more expensive as it includes a consultation with a doctor to get you set up) and access to the myLevels app costs only £35 per month, however the sensor packs are an additional £190 /month. So, while the proposition may be enticing, it seems unlikely that CGMs are going to fly off the shelves at these price points.
As you can tell from the cost of a myLevels subscription, the CGMs themselves are the main contributor to the high price. This is no surprise when considering the economies of scale, however it may mean that continuous glucose monitoring brands have to wait a few years before they can reach a price point that appeals to the masses.
Brands making moves in the space:
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