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Lessons Learned Series: Diabetes Tech (Part 1) – Diabetes Apps

Over the years we have hosted more than 25 Slipstream Weekends throughout Canada and the US. We wanted to share some of our insights from our favourite sessions at Slipstream. Stay tuned for guest posts from the experts and highlights from the CIM Team. Read on to learn more about the latest in Diabetes Apps.

CIM hosted the first-ever 5.5er Slipstream weekend in June for adults with Type 1 diabetes and their partners, friends, or family members without diabetes. We were joined by Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, and fellow Type 1 Lorraine Anderson, who shared two diabetes-themed presentations over the weekend. Read on for her recap of the second presentation, Diabetes Tech (and stay tuned for part 2!).

At this year’s 5.5er Slipstream the Connected in Motion community was lucky enough to hear from Lorraine Anderson, registered dietician, CDE, and fellow Type 1, about the latest mobile diabetes apps (covered here in part 1 of the blog series), glucose monitoring technology, insulin delivery and the ultimate goal of automated insulin delivery in the form of an artificial pancreas (coming up in part 2 of the blog series).

Read out to find out more about what we learned from Lorraine.

Words by Lorraine Anderson

In recent years we’ve seen the arrival of a new tool in the “diabetes toolbox” and it isn’t a new device or pill.  In fact, it’s found inside the smartphone that you likely carry everywhere you go. More than 1 in 3 Canadians use a smartphone app to help manage their health1.  For people who live with Type 1 diabetes, many are discovering the benefits of using mobile diabetes apps for helping with everything from carb counting to fitness tracking to healthy cooking and blood glucose (BG) monitoring. There are now over a thousand diabetes apps available.  Many of these new mobile diabetes apps are based on the key behaviours that help keep us healthy every day, including eating well, being physically active, getting a good night’s sleep and monitoring your BG. 

Here are a few popular diabetes apps for tracking food intake and nutrient data as well as helping with the daily challenges of carb counting.

CARB COUNTING APPS

Diabetes App - Carbs & Cals

Carbs & Cals

The Carbs & Cals app contains 3,500+ food photos to help you get your portion size just right. Up to 6 portion photos are provided for each food item and you can choose from carbs, calories, protein, fat, saturated fat, fibre, alcohol units and 5-a-day fruit and veg for the nutrition information provided. You can track meals, snacks and exercise too. All foods are shown on a standard 10″ plate making it easy to visualize and match your portion to the correct value. Carbs & Cals is available for iOS and Android.

Diabetes App - CalorieKing

CalorieKing

CalorieKing provides a quick reference database for easy searching of over 100,000 food items and a full nutrient breakdown is provided. It includes fast food chains and allows barcode scanning. Keep in mind that it is an American database, so you won’t be able to find all Canadian restaurants and food products. The Calorie King Calorie Counter is only available on iOS. It is free to download and use, but is supported by advertising. You can subscribe to remove all advertising from the app.

Diabetes App - Figwee

Figwee Portion Explorer

Figwee Portion Explorer is a simple photo-based app designed to help with calorie tracking and carb counting.  Simply slide the portion slider up or down along the side of the photo to create the portion size you want. As you adjust the portion size, the nutrition information adjusts along with it.  All nutrient info comes from either the USDA food database or from the manufacturer’s label so you can be sure of the accuracy of the data provided. As of today, Figwee is only available on iOS.

Diabetes App - Food

ACTIVITY RELATED APPS

When it comes to exercise and physical activity, the mobile app and wearable fitness tracker options are endless. Research shows that people who use exercise apps are more likely to be physically active. Try a few out and see what works best to get you moving more to help balance out those blood glucose levels.

Diabetes App - MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is a smartphone app and website that track exercise to help meet health and weight loss goals. It also allows tracking of food intake by scanning the barcodes of various food items or by manually adding them into the database of over five million different foods.  MyFitnessPal syncs with over 50 different devices and apps, including fitness trackers, to make tracking even easier. MyFitnessPal is available on both iOS and Android and is free to download and use, but is supported by advertising. A premium version offers additional features and customization for a monthly or annual fee.

Diabetes App - Strava

Strava, MapMyRun/Walk/Ride/Hike and Nike+ Run

If you enjoy walking, running or biking, GPS based apps like Strava, Map My Run/Walk/Ride/Hike/Fitness and Nike+ Run Club track your distance, speed, pace and progress over time. You can discover new routes wherever you are and challenge friends to meet new goals. Share your workouts with followers who can provide encouragement and supportive messages to help you stay committed to your fitness routine.  Some of these tracking apps allow you to enter all types of fitness workouts and some can even communicate with your “smart running shoes”! They are all available on both iOS and Android, they sync with multiple trackers and watches, and are free with the option of in-app purchases.

Be sure to check out and join CIM’s Strava group so you can connect with other community members and cheer one another one! 

Diabetes App - 7 Minute Workout

7 Minute Workout

For people who struggle with finding the time to exercise, the 7 Minute Workout® App series might be just the answer. It takes you through just that, a 7 Minute overall workout or you can select a version that focuses on Abs or Cardio/Sweat. These free workout plans give you a full-body challenge for improved fitness and weight loss. They are voice-prompted, so you can complete the entire workout without looking at a timer or device and they provide both video and text descriptions of each exercise. It is available free on both iOS and Android with the option of in-app purchases.

Diabetes App - GroupFitness

BLOOD GLUCOSE MONITORING APPS

product review - OneTouch

Last, but certainly not least, there are many options to help you with BG monitoring and diabetes tracking, to help you manage your individual BG challenges. The arrival of BlueTooth® enabled BG monitoring has been a game changer in the diabetes world. Gone are the days of logbooks and downloading cables.  Bluetooth® connectivity allows us to simplify diabetes management and data sharing by integrating BG results with food, insulin, and activity into a smartphone.  The most downloaded diabetes app in Canada2 is the OneTouch Reveal® app, which wirelessly connects with the OneTouch Verio Flex® blood glucose meter.  Dexcom offers the world’s first CGM system on your compatible smartphone using the G5 Mobile Share app. For friends and family members wishing to remotely monitor your glucose data and trends, the G5 Follow app fits the bill.  Other glucose monitoring apps include the CONTOUR®DIABETES App, Accu-Chek Connect, One Drop, and mySugr.  Try a few to see which works the best for you.

Health apps are an amazing addition to the repertoire of diabetes treatment options available today. The evidence suggests that people who use diabetes apps have greater improvements in many aspects of their daily blood sugar management. Many health apps provide the opportunity to participate in an online social community while others may provide an educational component.  Diabetes app technology doesn’t, and won’t ever, replace the role of your diabetes education team, but they may act as a nice complement to your care.3

References

  1. http://www.ontariomutuals.com/blog/1-in-3-canadians-regularly-use-mobile-health-apps Last accessed May 31, 2018.
  2. As reported for all diabetes apps downloaded in Canada in 2017 from Google Play and Apple iOS App Stores. Research2Guidance data Q42017.
  3. Empowering Diabetes Patient with Mobile Health Technologies. Matjaž Krošel, Lana Švegl, Luka Vidmar and Dejan Dinevski. Last accessed May 31, 2018

Disclaimer: Although this is not paid content, Lorraine’s time was paid for by our partners at One Touch. OneTouch is one of the national partners of Connected in Motion. Our views may be biased because of these partnerships, but we still thought this information was helpful for the community.