Is Continuous Glucose Monitoring the New Weight Loss Hack?
A Continuous Glucose Monitor, also known as a CGM, is a popular tech tool that monitors blood sugar in real-time and transmits the number to an app on your phone. Aside from being hugely instrumental in managing diabetes and prediabetes, the general consumer market has picked up this device for other health concerns—including weight loss and habit change.
Despite its primary role in diabetes and prediabetes management, a continuous glucose monitor may benefit someone who wants to use this device for a preventative purpose rather than later on as a disease management tool.
Deepti Agarwal, MD, the Director of Interventional and Integrative Pain Management at Case Integrative Health, believes that's the case.
"Most of us recognize a CGM in the context of being diabetic and managing blood sugar; however, a CGM is so much more than that! It is a wearable device for anyone that wants to know what the state of their metabolic health is," Dr. Agarwal tells us.
"The data [you get from the CGM] slowly helps drive behavioral change, one of the most important steps in taking control of our metabolic health. For example: take notice of what going for a walk after a meal does, or what pairing a high-carb meal with fiber can do to your glucose levels. All this helps you develop habits that optimize your health and weight!"
Why wear a CGM if you don't have diabetes?
Even if you don't have to constantly monitor your glucose levels, understanding how your glucose levels change depending on your diet and activity can give you insight into how to develop healthy habits.
Dr. Agarwal explains, "A CGM can help you see how your body processes glucose, how your numbers change based on the foods you eat and the activities you engage in, and even how your blood sugar responds to stress. The information has to be interpreted intelligently and with moderation since not all wearables are going to provide perfect data. It's important to remember not to take the tool as an indictment on your body—simply as a guideline to take a look at your lifestyle and data on how you can improve."
These findings might beg the question: Is there anyone who couldn't benefit from wearing one of these devices? Dr. Agarwal states, "The one caveat I have about wearing the CGM is that the tool may not be beneficial or helpful for someone who suffers from an eating disorder."
Certainly, this kind of data may be triggering for folks with a background of any disordered eating behaviors. Talk with your healthcare team before making the decision to try out a CGM device on your own.
Can CGMs help with weight loss?
Wearing a CGM and collecting so much information about your daily behaviors may make you more aware of how your lifestyle choices affect you. The research shows that self-monitoring is one of the major habits that folks can create to maintain their weight loss results.
Wearing a CGM is one type of self-monitoring, similar to logging your food or weighing yourself. However, this technology is quite new, and we need more research on the general population before we draw definitive conclusions.
"Since your glucose and insulin levels can affect your weight, many people are using it solely as a weight loss tool. It tracks your glucose levels throughout the day, which can provide insight into how your diet choices are affecting these levels," registered dietitian Melissa Mitri, MS, RD tells us.
The future of personalized medicine
Personalized medicine is a developing field that creates an individualized approach to medicine. This approach often uses a combination of diet and lifestyle changes that are uniquely crafted based on one's lifestyle, lab work, vital signs, genetics, microbiome, and more.
Dr. Agarwal explains that wearing a CGM "may help create a more personalized diet plan for your own weight loss needs. More research is needed to prove CGMs directly lead to weight loss, but the data provided from using them may be helpful for those looking for more personalized nutrition."
Personalized medicine and CGMs serve the larger purpose of preventing disease states by detecting the signs early on. "Numerous individuals don't realize that many diseases begin with irregularities in blood sugar. This causes inflammation in the body and is a major driver of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer, sexual dysfunction, infertility, obesity, Alzheimer's, depression, and heart disease," says Dr. Agarwal.
She continues, "In fact, Alzheimer's disease was recently called Type 3 Diabetes. Aka, it is highly linked to metabolic dysfunction. So why not track glucose the way we track our calories, heart rate, and sleep? This is an important preventative tool and is a pillar in practicing personalized medicine. The more data you can gather about your health, the more you can think about how to protect it. The most important asset we have is our health, and the return on investment shows up many years later, so why not start investing in it now?"