People with prediabetes have elevated blood sugar levels, placing them at risk of developing diabetes.
But most tools that predict whether someone with prediabetes will progress to develop diabetes look years in the future, study author Mitesh Patel, Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, was quoted as saying.
“There were no good near-term models to say, in the next six months, whose blood sugar is going to increase and get worse versus whose is going to get better,” Patel said.
In the new study, published in NPJ Digital Medicine, Patel’s team built models that would use activity data collected from either wrist- or waist-worn Fitbits to predict both changes in average blood sugar and 5 percent improved or worsened blood sugar levels, the report said.
The results showed that the wearables made accurate predictions, and in particular, the wrist-worn devices predicted data more accurately.
“We know that people who are generally more active have better control of their blood sugar, and people who are less active have worse control,” Patel said.
“But there are other hidden patterns in the daily information we’re getting — how many steps are fast steps versus slow steps, and other nuances — that we can get from this information,” he added.
As the wearable can capture that additional data, it can give a more detailed look at how activity drives changes in blood sugar, the report said.
“It kind of makes sense intuitively – more movement, more physical activity leads to overall better health, and better health is one of the factors behind improved glycemic control,” Jessilyn Dunn, an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke University and who wasn’t involved with this study, was quoted as saying.
Other studies have also found that data from wearable devices can help track and predict blood glucose levels. Yet, they are still only a proxy for blood sugar levels, Dunn said.
It’s still important to directly monitor blood sugar through blood testing methods.
Diabetes and blood sugar management is the next target of tech companies, who look to incorporate these tools into consumer products like smartwatches and smart rings.
Apple has been looking into non-invasive glucose monitoring for years, Fitbit has a partnership with diabetes tech company LifeScan, and a new smart ring is looking at blood sugar monitoring as a future goal, the report said.
These companies attempt to non-invasively measure blood sugar by focusing on sweat, tears, breath, and the reflection of light off the skin. While these strategies could offer more direct measures of glucose than activity data, most haven’t come to fruition yet, Dunn noted.