Once I noticed the first, I saw them everywhere – a curious white disc stuck to the upper arm. People were wearing them at the gym, on the underground, in the office. An internet search told me they were continuous glucose monitors, which give an instant read-out of your blood sugar level.
Around the same time, I noticed media coverage of ZOE, a dietary advice programme based partly on your blood sugar responses to food, whose podcast recently topped the UK charts. And my social media feeds were filled with posts about how to hack your glucose levels. Clearly, glucose is having a moment.
We normally think about blood sugar in relation to diabetes, in which the body can’t regulate glucose levels, with serious health implications. Continuous glucose monitors were invented to make it easier for people with diabetes to find out – and hence control – their blood sugar levels.
Now, however, some companies offer them to people without diabetes as part of a programme of personalised nutrition advice, seeing them as a window into an individual’s response to diet that can guide the foods they should eat for optimum health. The idea behind monitoring glucose is to reduce the “spikes” that happen after eating, as this will help with weight loss and boost mood, energy levels and sleep, or so the story goes. So, what do we know about the health effects of glucose spikes? And is monitoring them a good…