Best CGM for Healthy Living – 2024
Jules Walters • Updated: Jan 4 2023
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) has traditionally been used by people living with diabetes, who want to track their blood sugar levels in real time. But increasingly these handy tracking devices are being used by healthy consumers too.
Whether you’re an athlete, fitness enthusiast, or simply interested in gaining insights into your body, CGM devices can help. They are the best way to monitor your glucose levels continuously throughout the day.
In this article, I review the leading CGM systems for healthy consumers, including accuracy, comfort, ease of use, and how their programs can improve overall health and well-being.
Continuous glucose monitors vs finger prick
CGMs that are always on and the more traditional glucometers that need you to prick your finger both monitor blood sugar levels. But they differ in a few key ways.
CGMs offer the advantage of real-time glucose readings throughout the day, giving users a continuous and comprehensive view of their glucose levels. This can help identify trends and patterns that may go unnoticed with traditional glucometers, which measure glucose levels at a specific moment in time. CGMs also have alarms that can alert users to high or low glucose levels.
The CGMs implantable sensor measures glucose levels with a wire filament that sits for up to two weeks in the fluid layer under the skin. That compares with the regular blood glucose meter that tests blood drawn through a finger prick and applied to a disposable test strip.
CGMs are usually a lot more expensive than traditional finger prick methods. And, in the US at least, you won’t get insurance coverage if you’re not diabetic.
The 4 best CGM programs for healthy consumers (2024)
Nutrisense have incorporated the FreeStyle Libre CGM, made by Abbott, into their CGM program.
The device applicator contains a small needle, which is used to apply the device to the back of your arm.
When you apply the Freestyle Libre device, a tiny wire filament attached to the sensor remains under your skin. The device then continuously measurea glucose levels in the interstitial fluid layer of your arm.
A big selling point for the Nutrisense program is the free month of in-app support from a qualified nutritionist. You’ll then have the option to continue nutrition support for an additional monthly fee. And you can subscribe for as little as a month, though their pricing structure does encourage you to commit for longer.
As for accuracy: a 2023 study published in Diabetes Therapy found the FreeStyle Libre’s blood glucose readings were within 20 percent (20 mg/dl) of glucometer or finger-prick readings nearly 90 percent of the time.
Levels isn’t the funkiest kid on the block, but they are serious about their mission.
They say it’s “to promote a healthy lifestyle, and help users maintain or improve their general state of wellness”.
If you want support from a nutritionist to interpret your data, you’re encouraged to buy that through the Levels marketplace. It’s not part of the program, and you do have to sign up for a year. But Levels does have an impressive blog; full of accessible, and well-informed articles on metabolic health.
As for the software: the Levels’ app supports both the market-dominating Dexcom G6 and G7 sensors and Abbot’s Freestyle Libre version. Using the Freestyle Libre sensor means glucose values are calculated every 15 mins; not in real time. And you have to scan the sensor with your phone every 8 hours to transmit your data to the Levels app.
Combining Levels with the Dexcom G7 sensor, your glucose is calculated every 5 minutes – and the data transmits automatically to your phone via Bluetooth, so long as you keep it within 20 feet. The G7 doesn’t need finger-stick calibration.
The Signos CGM system and ethos is very similar to the approach of its two closest US rivals, Nutrisense and Levels Health.
However, their data focus and messaging is less directed to holistic health and more to weight loss.
Instead of support from a qualified nutritionist, Signos uses AI to assess your data and create a personalized action plan.
Like most providers, the Signos CGM program design and pricing structure encourages you to sign up for several months. That explains why the cost of the entry level, one-month-only subscription is pretty eye-watering!
Veri’s approach is to combine data from their continuous glucose monitors with behavioral change and health science to guide members on their health journey.
Veri’s marketing clearly targets those wanting to lose weight. Their program, though, embraces not just dietary advice but also data-based tips to change daily habits, and ultimately improve your health.
Unlike some other programs, Veri doesn’t require you to buy the sensors directly from them. So, you can just pay a monthly subscription for the Veri app; but you will still need the sensors from a CGM supplier to get real benefit from the program.
Why use continuous blood sugar readings if you’re not diabetic?
As I see it, these are four of the best reasons :
Lifestyle improvements: Continuous glucose monitoring presents an opportunity for non-diabetics to gain insight into how their lifestyle choices affect blood sugar control. By tracking glucose trends, individuals can better understand how diet, exercise, stress, and sleep patterns affect their metabolism.
Early intervention and prevention: CGM devices can help identify foods that lead to blood sugar highs and lows. Everyone’s metabolism is slightly different and there’s nothing like seeing the results of eating high-sugar foods yourself.
Adapting your diet, including avoiding certain foods, can have a big impact on blood glucose levels, and can help to prevent diabetes and improve overall health.
Weight management: For people striving to lose weight, a continuous glucose monitoring system can show the effects of different foods on blood sugar. Blood sugar or glucose is the energy that our bodies use first: a bit like putting kindling on a fire. Sugar doesn’t last long in our bloodstream, like kindling, and switching to longer-lasting energy sources like protein and healthy fats can help to keep blood glucose levels more stable. Think of proteins and healthy fats like putting a log on the fire.
Optimizing performance: Athletes and people seeking to reach peak performance levels can benefit from continuous glucose monitoring systems. By monitoring glucose levels during physical activity and recovery, athletes can fine-tune their nutrition and optimize energy levels.
Continuous glucose monitoring devices have come a long way in the last 10 years! They’re a lot more accurate than they used to be, and more accessible than ever to everyday consumers, who want more insight and influence over their bodies.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you need a prescription for a continuous glucose monitor (CGM)?
Yes. In the United States you do need a doctor’s prescription for a continuous monitoring device. The easiest way to get a prescription is through the device provider that you choose. One of their retained physicians will issue the scrip for you, having reviewed your order, and any personal details you’ve supplied.
Is continuous glucose monitoring covered by insurance?
In the US, you will need to pay for your CGM device out of pocket if you’re non-diabetic. Healthcare professionals and insurers typically regard blood glucose monitoring as a tool for managing diabetes. So, if you’re not diabetic, or pre-diabetic, they’re likely to look on CGM as a lifestyle choice rather than a pressing medical need.
How accurate are continuous glucose monitors (CGMs)?
Modern CGMs have significantly improved in accuracy over the past few years, though that can vary between different makes. Meter accuracy is measured in Mean Absolute Relative Difference (the MARD score), which indicates the deviation of CGM readings – measured in percent – from reference values. The smaller the MARD percentage, the more accurate the device.
Medics will point out that the most accurate method we have for measuring blood sugar level is an actual blood draw. CGM technology doesn’t yet draw blood, nor does it enter the bloodstream. It only measures glucose levels in the interstitial fluid layer below the skin. So, CGM still relies on a parallel method, such as a standard blood glucose meter, to verify readings. The best CGM devices, though, will help you spot trends and patterns that will steer you towards healthier food intake and lifestyle changes.
What external factors can affect the accuracy of a CGM system?
CGM data is generally considered quite reliable, though blood glucose readings can be affected by factors such as sensor calibration and sensor placement. Most people put the sensor on their upper arm. Inaccurate readings can also result from interference from certain other elements in the bloodstream, such as high levels of Vitamin C.
So, it’s generally recommended to confirm a CGM’s blood glucose readings with a finger-stick test if the CGM reading seems inconsistent. The more so, if the glucose reading needs verification before making a critical health management decision.
Are there any good reasons NOT to use a continuous glucose monitor?
Yes. There are a few, and you can read more about these, and more on how CGMs work, in my blog What’s the point of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) for non diabetics?
In brief, though, I suggest the key ones are:
- Risk of misinterpreting blood glucose data. You could end up taking unnecessary actions as a result.
- Discomfort. You may not appreciate having a fine needle stuck in your arm for up to two weeks.
- Cost. CGM devices aren’t cheap, so if you’re on a tight budget and not diabetic, think twice.
- Mental health. Too much focus on blood sugar from hour to hour could lead to unnecessary anxiety!
Can you just do finger-stick testing instead of using a CGM?
Yes, absolutely. Instead of a continuous glucose monitoring system, you could go old school and take finger-tip blood samples. To that end, buy a standard finger-stick (also known as finger-prick) kit – and a glucose meter (AKA a glucometer). Blood glucose meters, and the accompanying miniature lancets and test strips, are sold at all major pharmacies. It’s easy to do at home. And you don’t need a scrip for any of the kit.
You can read more about finger-stick testing in my article here.
But, in brief: the glucometer readings you get from a good-quality glucose meter will be at least as reliable as CGM readings. And you won’t need a monitoring device attached to your arm or backside for days at a time. Just the passing discomfort of a pin prick to your finger whenever you want to take a reading. What you won’t get so easily from finger-stick testing – unless you test frequently – is a continuous read-out of your blood sugar levels, or a clear indication of when the spikes occur, or trends over time.