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Have continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) spiked your interest?

Ana Ravier, our BBLC Dietitian, explores the current surge in use and why you should reconsider jumping on the CGM trend.



Over the last 2-3 years, the use of CGM (continuous glucose monitors) and awareness around blood glucose levels has exploded. You may have heard of the “Glucose goddess” a French biochemist who shares tips on how to reduce sugar spikes with her 3.8 million Instagram followers or noticed more and more people in the street wearing little white disks on their arm (yep, those are CGMs!).


CGMs are sensors with a small filament held in place into your arm by a protective adhesive, allowing you to continuously track blood glucose levels and send that data to your phone.


continuous glucose monitor CGM blood sugar test spike diabetes type 2 1

Let’s recap quickly: when we eat foods containing carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice, but also fruit, veg, dairy, sweetened drinks or lollies, our body breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose during digestion. Glucose (i.e. sugar) gets absorbed from the gut into our blood stream… and this creates a blood glucose spike.


The easier a food is to digest, the faster glucose is absorbed into our blood, and the more intense the “sugar spike”. A big spike in blood glucose can be followed by a “sugar crash” - and with that a dip in energy, focus AND the urge of reaching for another snack.


The capacity of a food to raise our blood glucose is called “the glycemic index” (GI). High GI foods, such as lollies, sushi rice or soft drinks tend to raise our blood glucose much more than low GI foods, such as wholemeal pasta, almonds or avocado. Foods which have very little or no carbs (eg. meat, fish, oil) don’t raise blood sugar.


Eating in a way which “flattens” the blood glucose spikes (or what we might call “a low GI diet”) is very beneficial for people with diabetes, pre-diabetes or insulin resistant PCOS. It may also help the average-Joe improve their energy levels, help with weight management, reduce the occurrence of headaches, cravings and the “3pm slump” - and this is the basis of CGMs’ recent popularity.


big selection of lollies sugar sweets

Once upon a time reserved for people with insulin-dependent diabetes, CGMs are today increasingly popular amongst athletes, weekend warriors and the health conscious who do not have diabetes. But… what is the point of tracking your blood glucose levels if you don’t have diabetes, one might ask?


Possible reasons include:

“Optimising” blood glucose levels for peak mental or physical performance. Some CGM manufacturers suggest keeping your blood glucose levels in an "ideal range" will help you perform your best and improve health in various ways. Knowing your blood glucose levels may also give the illusion of control over your health.


Detecting pre-diabetes.  In pre-diabetes, blood glucose levels tend to be heightened (i.e. our body isn’t as good at bringing our blood glucose back to baseline after a meal) and can eventually develop into type 2 diabetes. If pre-diabetes is diagnosed early, lifestyle intervention can reverse it! This is why people with a family history of diabetes or who are on certain medication may be inclined to track their blood glucose levels.


Curiosity. Let’s be honest, gathering information about our bodies, analysing data, experimenting with different foods and their impact is appealing.


woman in pink shorts and black top running against a neutral background

However, in a world where many of us already continuously track our weight, steps, and sleep, do we really need another set of (sometimes redundant and inaccurate) data?  How beneficial is it to us, versus the CGMs manufacturers who have just unlocked a massive market of potential buyers? Will we start obsessing about our glucose spikes in the same way we do about “closing our rings”?

Learning about your personal nutrition needs may be more beneficial than compulsively tracking our blood glucose levels - especially if it becomes a source of stress or anxiety.


At the end of the day - our bodies are designed to regulate blood glucose. So, while tracking blood glucose levels for a few days could give you an interesting insight into your habits, and perhaps motivate you to make certain changes to your diet or lifestyle, it’s important to take a step back and remember variations in blood glucose are normal.


If you have any questions about blood glucose control, how to optimise your health through nutrition, or indeed have a diagnosis of diabetes, pre-diabetes or PCOS, you can get in touch with our dietitian Ana by calling reception on 02 8969 6300.




References

American Diabetes Association, (n.d.) The Big Picture: Checking Your Blood Glucose https://diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-care/checking-your-blood-sugar


Davis, Sarah (n.d.) Continuous glucose monitors - should you use one? Happy Strong Healthy. https://www.happystronghealthyrd.com/blog/cgm


Farrow, Olivia (2023). CGM for non diabetics: what dietitians need to know. Dietitian Success Center. https://dietitiansuccesscenter.com/cgm-for-non-diabetics-what-dietitians-need-to-know/


Shmerling, Robert (2021). Is blood sugar monitoring without diabetes worthwhile? Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/is-blood-sugar-monitoring-without-diabetes-worthwhile-202106112473








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