Approaches to weight loss have changed and evolved in many ways over the years. Recently, continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) have gained popularity as tools to measure metabolic health and aid in weight loss.
CGMs were originally developed for use in patients with type 1 diabetes, as a means to measure blood glucose (blood sugar) levels continuously, rather than only measuring levels with finger pricks at certain intervals.
Tracking blood sugar levels may also be useful for individuals without diabetes. Blood sugar control is an important aspect of health, and when our blood sugars are chronically high, it can lead to weight gain, among other things.
So, a CGM could potentially be a useful tool in conjunction with a weight loss program.
Let’s take a look at some of the popular CGMs on the market today.
Quick Table Summary of The Top 4 Continuous Glucose Monitoring Devices for Metabolic Health
Dietitian Support Included
Real time glucose monitoring
App with tracking insights
(available at an extra cost)
($199 per year)
What Is a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)?
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a device that you can wear that monitors your blood sugar levels.
It’s a small sensor device that is inserted just under the skin, typically on the arm or belly. It’s meant to be worn continuously so that it can read your blood sugar levels over time. This is a more accurate way to keep tabs on blood glucose when compared to traditional finger pricks. Plus, it means fewer pricks in general, though some finger pricks are still recommended to make sure the device is measuring accurately.
The device will send measurements to another device or smartphone app so that the individual can keep tabs on their blood sugars. Some devices may sound an alarm when blood sugars are too low or too high in order to alert the user that they need to take action.
In the past, CGMs were used exclusively for people managing diabetes. However, they have become more popular among weight loss programs as well.
Can It Help You Lose Weight?
Frequent monitoring of blood glucose has been shown to improve overall blood sugar control in individuals with diabetes and in some instances, it can be lifesaving.
However, the research supporting the use of CGMs for weight loss, without the presence of diabetes, is lacking.
That being said, a CGM can be seen as a tool to gather data on yourself and when it comes to our health, knowledge is power. Having blood sugar data available throughout the day may help motivate you to make better choices in an effort to maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and ultimately may lead to weight loss.
Additionally, blood sugar control is hugely important for health and weight management. When blood sugars are high, along with other biomarkers, like blood pressure and cholesterol, we see not only huge increases in the risk for developing chronic diseases, but also weight gain.
Overweight and obese individuals, as well as individuals who have high blood sugars, are at an increased risk for developing insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when the body becomes less sensitive to insulin, the hormone responsible for storing glucose in our cells, and ultimately both insulin and glucose become chronically high in the body.
This drastically increases the risk of developing diabetes and other chronic conditions, and to make matters worse, high levels of insulin and glucose in the body can ALSO lead to weight gain.
It’s a vicious cycle.
So, while the research may not be there just yet, keeping tabs on blood sugar could be advantageous for some, especially if insulin resistance or high blood sugar is present.
How Do You Use a CGM to Lose Weight?
A CGM should be used for the recommended amount of time (this may vary depending on the device) and switched out at recommended intervals.
As with any device measuring and spitting out data, it’s important to have a plan for what to do with all of the information.
This is where a healthcare professional, like a registered dietitian or your physician, will be important.
In order to get started with a CGM, you’ll need a prescription, so be sure to ask lots of questions and gather resources from your practitioner.
The goal for monitoring blood sugar is to keep things steady throughout the day.
If you find that certain foods spike your blood sugar more than others, you may wish to make some changes. Alternatively, if you are noticing low blood sugars after a bout of exercise, consider a pre-workout snack (like a protein bar for weight loss) to keep your levels stable.
What To Look For In A Continuous Glucose Monitor
There are a few things to consider when deciding which CGM you’ll purchase. While they all measure the same thing, they are not all created equally, so let’s review some important factors to consider.
Hardware (CGM Device)
The device itself is typically made of a small needle that is placed just under the skin. It’ll typically come with a bigger compartment that will help you place the device. Once the device is placed, the bigger compartment can be removed, leaving behind the small needle that you’ll cover with an adhesive.
Try reading reviews on the devices themselves and see what users are saying about the wearability and comfortability of them.
Each of the CGMs on our list have a smartphone app component. This will mostly be a personal preference, but it’s a good idea to check out the website for images of the app. Look for one that is visually appealing to you and user-friendly.
Tracking and Insights
Because our blood sugar is affected by so many different factors throughout the day, looking for a CGM that is going to track more than just diet is important. If tracking seems cumbersome, opt for a CGM that integrates with your smartwatch so that the data will transfer seamlessly without needing to manually log.
The 4 Best CGM Monitor Systems For Weight Loss (And Reasons Why)
NutriSense, January.ai, Levels, and Signos are 4 of the most popular CGMs that are designed for weight loss. Let’s take a look at each of these more closely so that you can determine which, if any, might be the best fit for you.
1. NutriSense CGM
NutriSense CGM is designed to be worn on the back of the arm 24/7 for two weeks straight, before replacing it with a fresh device. Your data is automatically synced to the NutriSense app on your smartphone, where it is analyzed and interpreted by registered dietitians, who will then make appropriate recommendations.
This CGM is meant to be used over the course of a year, during which you’ll go through different phases. During the discovery phase, you’ll learn your starting point. Over the next month, you’ll experiment with different approaches with the guidance of a dietitian. Next, you’ll focus on optimizing blood sugars in order to reach your weight loss goals.
2. January.ai CGM
January.ai’s 90-day program, Seasons of Me, is designed to help individuals understand how their bodies, and blood sugars, are affected by their day to day habits. Throughout the program, you’ll wear not only a CGM, but also a heart rate monitor to collect health data.
When you first sign up for January.ai, you’ll have a telehealth consultation to determine if you are eligible for the CGM, as it requires a prescription. The app is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) that will learn your habits as you continue to wear the CGM so that it can make appropriate recommendations.
The app will make recommendations based on your blood sugar levels with the goal of keeping them stable. For example, you can enter a meal you plan to consume and see how your future choices may affect your blood sugars. In this example, you’ll see how your blood sugar will respond to a short walk after that meal, or how it will respond to no activity after that meal.
3. Levels CGM
The Levels CGM and app monitor blood sugars to help individuals gain insights on how different habits, like nutrition choices and fitness, affect them.
By logging your meals and exercise, you can see exactly how the types of choices you make affect your blood sugars. In the app, you’ll see graphs depicting how your blood sugar has changed throughout the course of the day.
It’s recommended that you simply observe your blood sugar data for the first week. Levels will give foods a score, from 0 to 10, to give you an idea of how each will affect your blood sugar.
Once you’ve become familiar with the data and the app itself, you can begin experimenting with different approaches to optimizing your blood sugar levels. Of all the CGMs on our list, Levels appears to be the most basic, with the fewest bells and whistles. However, this may be because it’s still a newer product on the market.
4. Signos CGM
As with other CGMs on our list, Signos involves a CGM worn on the arm along with an app.
Before you can get started, you’ll complete a health history form for a physician to review and determine if you are eligible for the prescription. Once you receive your CGM, you can begin to use it right away and start logging your day to day lifestyle habits like meals, exercise, and sleep.
The app integrates with a wearable, like a smart watch or ring, making it super simple to keep all of your stats in one place.
Over time, the app will get to know you and begin to make recommendations, including what foods are better choices than others and when to exercise, based on your blood sugar levels and history.
Benefits Of Using A Continuous Glucose Monitor for Weight Loss
There are a few benefits of using a CGM for weight loss. For starters, having more data and information about your body is always useful when it comes to making changes. In other words, it helps to know where you are before you can figure out where you’re going and how to get there.
By continuously monitoring your blood sugar levels, along with tracking things that affect them, you’ll be able to see what changes might be beneficial in managing your levels throughout the day. For example, you may discover that your blood sugars tend to be higher during times of high stress and decide to implement regular meditation or yoga to help combat those effects.
By keeping tabs on your blood sugar levels, you’re promoting your overall health, and reducing the risk of chronic disease that can result from chronically high blood sugars or poor blood sugar control.
As with any weight loss approach or device, there will always be drawbacks. A big drawback of CGMs is that they are expensive. Depending on which device you decide to try, you’ll be spending hundreds, or possibly thousands, of dollars, which may or may not be worth it to you.
The fact that you’ll have something in your arm for extended periods of time may or may not be a drawback for you as well. Although, many customers have written that once the monitor was placed, it was not bothersome or painful.
The lack of research supporting the use of a CGM for weight loss could also be seen as a drawback. As a dietitian, I would probably not recommend a CGM to most individuals looking to lose weight. It’s expensive and it’s not necessarily going to lead to weight loss.
That being said, some individuals may benefit more than others from the use of a CGM.
Who Should Consider Using One?
A CGM may be beneficial for someone who is overweight or someone who has had abnormal blood sugar readings on more than one occasion.
Additionally, a CGM may be helpful for managing risk factors if diabetes runs in the family, or you have other risk factors for chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, in addition to high blood sugar.
If you are someone who simply enjoys health data, and you don’t mind the cost, an CGM may also be a great fit for you.
CGMs are small devices that are placed on the arm (or sometimes the belly) and regularly monitor blood sugar levels. They are incredibly useful, and sometimes life-saving, in patients with diabetes, but they may also be beneficial for weight loss.
Paying attention to blood sugar levels and how they are affected by day to day habits could lead to better choices, in terms of diet, exercise, and other factors. In turn, these lifestyle changes could ultimately lead to more effective weight loss.
Tips for Success from the RD
Our blood sugar levels are affected by so many different things every day. Things like stress, hydration, sleep, diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors, can cause our levels to spike and drop.
Focusing on a healthy lifestyle will also help with blood sugar control. Eating well-balanced meals and snacks regularly throughout the day, with a focus on low-glycemic, high fiber carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats, will help keep blood sugar levels healthy.
If you do decide to try out a CGM, remember that the simple act of wearing it is not going to translate to weight loss. It’s still on the individual to do the work required to lose weight. This means, you’ll need to stay on top of the data and implement the recommendations in order to see positive changes.