- Harvard medical students wore continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) as part of new research on metabolic health immersion.
- Over half of the participants felt wearing a CGM encouraged them to change their eating habits.
- There was an overwhelming dissatisfaction with the dietary advice used in the current US medical system.
- They all believed the experience of wearing a CGM would help them serve diabetes patients better.
Medical and dental students seeking a greater understanding of diet and metabolism on health and disease have participated in an immersive new research trial.
The program leaders wanted to address the lack of nutrition education in America’s medical school curricula despite a rising number of diet-related chronic conditions across the US. For instance, it’s believed that by 2050, 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes.
Thirteen students wore Dexcom G6 CGMs for a period of 30-40 days as part of Harvard University’s Metabolic Health Immersion for Medical Education pilot program.
A ten-day variation was due to some of the participants ‘donating’ their CGMs so that other students could benefit from the experience. The study’s popularity led to its expansion, with Dexcom supplying an additional 20 CGMs because of the demand.
The original thirteen participants had fasting bloodwork taken before the study began. As the trial progressed, the students kept dietary records and attended weekly debriefings.
Afterwards, the students completed surveys regarding their understanding of nutrition, metabolism, and dietary habits.
Those involved in the expanded study answered a questionnaire on their experiences after wearing a CGM for ten days.
As a result of wearing the CGMs, the original cohort reported adjusting their diets. In particular, over half restricted their carbohydrate intake, while several students also increased the amount of protein they consumed at mealtimes.
In the expanded study, all of the participants agreed that the CGMs gave them insights into their body’s response to food, while 65% of the students said they also felt encouraged to change their eating behaviours.
The original cohort expressed overwhelming dissatisfaction with the current medical system’s diet advice to patients, with one student describing it as “prescriptive and individualised.”
One student regarded the advice given as “extremely flawed”, calling dietary guidelines “cookie-cutter, high carb and low fat.”
Another was shocked that dietary guidelines appear to “totally miss the mark and have not caught up with the simple idea that high glycaemic index foods should be largely avoided.”
The glycaemic index (GI) ranks foods which contain carbohydrates. Higher GI foods are quickly broken down by the body, causing a rapid increase in blood glucose.
People with type 2 diabetes are advised to avoid high GI foods due to their impact on blood glucose levels. Despite this, some ‘diabetes-friendly’ diet plans regularly include high GI foods.
All of the expanded study participants strongly agreed or agreed that the experience of wearing a CGM would help them better serve diabetes patients in the future.
The study’s authors believe immersive metabolic health experiences could improve patient care while tackling America’s growing chronic metabolic disease epidemic.
This research paper was originally published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.