Apple’s focus on Blood Glucose Level trends expands with iOS 15

Apple Watch Workouts complete guide

Apple has expanded its health and fitness offerings with iOS 15. Secure sharing of health data along with functionality around new insights and trends stood out as some of the major highlights from the Health focussed session yesterday.

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Apple has integrated Blood glucose level trends across iOS 15 health trends and highlights features.

This is the first time we have seen Blood Glucose levels take such prominence across the  Health app.

According to code specs of iOS 15 Beta, there are at least two distinct areas where blood glucose levels are highlighted prominently along with Heart Rate and Respiratory rate. Thanks to Steve Moser(@SteveMoser) from Tapedrive for sharing this information with us.

Blood Glucose Trends during sleep on iOS 15
Health Notification shows overnight blood glucose levels in iOS 15.
  • Blood Glucose levels during Sleep
  • Blood Glucose level monitoring during Fitness+ workouts

Monitoring overnight Blood Glucose levels in iOS 15

Decreased sleep is a risk factor for increased blood sugar levels. Even partial sleep deprivation over one night can increase insulin resistance, which can in turn may lead to increased blood sugar levels.

While many people with diabetes aim to keep blood sugar levels below 180 mg/dl during the day, some people aim for the lower range of 120 or 140 mg/dl at night, when they are not eating.

Monitoring Blood sugar overnight is an important element for some Diabetes patients. Overnight sugar levels can provide additional clues around ‘dawn phenomemon’ and Somogyi effect.

If your blood sugar drops too low in the middle of the night while you are sleeping, your body will release hormones in an attempt to “rescue” you from the dangerously low blood sugar and you could see high blood sugar levels in your morning report.

Therefore it makes perfect sense that Apple’s Health app and trend algorithms are keeping a close eye on nightly blood glucose levels.

Marrying the sugar level information with your sleeping hours, REM sleep and nightly respiratory rate and HRV will also provide new insights in the future.

Blood Glucose Monitoring during Fitness+ workouts

The other area where the blood glucose trends have been integrated into and highlighted in trends are specific workouts. The notifications provide both the Blood Glucose level ranges and well as the individual (average) number during the last workout.

iOS 15 Blood Glucose monitoring during workouts
Ability to monitor Blood Glucose Levels during certain workouts in iOS 15

It is not exactly clear if these workouts are the stand-alone workouts that you launch using the Apple Watch app or if they are Fitness+ offered workouts. 

Our haunch is that these will be tracked when users are using Fitness+ along with their Apple Watch.

When you workout today using Fitness+, you get trends around your heart rate. Following the workout, you can open up the Health app and also examine the Recovery heart rate to gain additional insights.

The new blood glucose trends have been included in the following workout types along with heart rate and respiratory rate.

  • Elliptical Workout
  • HIIT Workout
  • Hiking
  • Indoor Bike
  • Running
  • Walking 
  • Biking
  • Rowing
  • Stair Stepper
  • Yoga

Could the next Apple Watch feature Blood Glucose Level monitoring?

That is indeed the million-dollar question. Unfortunately, we do not know. We can only speculate.

Given that the new code explicitly calls out Nightly blood glucose levels as well as glucose level monitoring when you work out, it would imply that the values for glucose levels are being extracted from your CGM (continuous glucose monitor) such as Dexcom G6 or other CGM systems.

There is also a good possibility that a future Apple Watch has spectrometric sensors to continuously detect blood glucose levels and that is why it has been given such prominence in the health highlights and trends features in iOS 15. After all, Apple was quick to build out trends around heart rate metrics across the Health and Fitness apps since the watch could continuously measure your heart rate.

At this point, it is pure speculation, although there have been some rumors this year that both the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and the Apple Watch Series 7 could feature blood sugar monitoring.iOS 15 Health Trends and Highlights

What is more important is that Apple has been thinking about the right metrics that influence our health and fitness levels and is providing us with highlights and trends to effectively monitor them. 

“This past year has emphasized the importance of health, and we’re enabling our users to take a more active role in their well-being. We’ve added powerful features that give users the most comprehensive set of insights to better understand their health trends over time,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “Many people around the world are caring for someone, and we want to provide a secure and private way for users to have a trusted partner on their health journey. We’re excited to bring these innovative tools directly into users’ hands.”

Health Trends and insightful Highlights will positively shape people’s behavior

A recent Duke University research study, released this week, suggested that managing lifestyle by monitoring glucose levels using Smartwatch along with food monitoring can be significant in terms of managing prediabetes.

This study also showed how interstitial blood glucose could be accurately predicted/forecasted using digital biomarkers detected using a smartwatch and food monitoring.

Given that one in three people suffer from prediabetes today, the focus on highlighting blood glucose trends along with heart rate and respiratory rate metrics is very timely on the part of Apple’s health team.

I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products and have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. In my day job, I advise fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health&fitness-tech evolution and keep a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch or Fossil Gen 5 LTE and keep a close eye on my HRV and other recovery metrics.

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