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  • Saturday, 15 June 2024
Blood glucose monitor

Olympians Turn To Diabetes Technology Ahead Of Olympic Games

Olympians like Dutch marathon runner Abdi Nageeye are using continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) to track blood glucose levels, to try and improve their athletic performance. 


What are CGMs?

Originally developed for diabetes patients, CGMs are a coin-sized monitor with a sensory filament that is attached to the body to measure the glucose levels in the fluid between cells under the skin. The CGM is most commonly worn on the back of the upper arm, however that is not the only placement option. 


The monitors wirelessly transmit continuous data to a smartphone, and reduce the need to use finger pricking as the main method of checking glucose levels for diabetics. It also allows users to see trends in their sugar levels and to see data from times when they wouldn’t usually test their sugar levels such as during the night. 


Why are athletes using CGMs?

CGMs are now being marketed to athletes and wellness enthusiasts by companies like Abbott and Dexcom. The CGM’s ability to measure glucose levels continuously has been seen helping athletes during training. 


Nageeye, who won silver in Tokyo, uses CGMs to fine-tune his eating and sleeping patterns by using the readings as an indicator of his available energy, aiming for an "effortless run" in Paris. 


Australian swimmer Chelsea Hodges credited CGMs with helping her manage exhaustion and dizziness during longer training sessions, which reading showed were due to dropping glucose levels. Despite ending her career due to hip issues, Hodges believes CGMs made a significant impact on her training regimen.


The debate over the use of CGMs in sports

The sports use of CGMs has sparked debate. The Union Cycliste Internationale banned non-medical CGM use in races for fairness, but other sports have not followed. The high cost of CGMs, ranging from $152 to $190 per month, is also hard to maintain without sponsorships. 


Scientific understanding of CGMs in sports is still evolving. Researchers like Filip Larsen from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences highlighted the potential benefits that CGMs can provide for athletes in improving their training regimens, but has stated that CGMs should be used with professional guidance.


CGMs provide a large amount of data that, without professional guidance on how to interpret the results, can be overwhelming to users.


Sports dietician Greg Cox, who has been researching the effects of reduced calorie intake on glucose readings in endurance athletes supported this statement. 


There is currently no concrete scientific evidence that the use of CGMs provides athletes using them with a competitive edge, and it is unknown if we will see CGMs in use next month at the upcoming Olympics.


The CGM market is expanding rapidly, driven by both diabetic and non-diabetic users. As athletes continue to experiment with these devices, the sports world awaits more validated research on their true impact on performance and health.

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