The amount of effort it takes for people with diabetes to pick the right foods and track everything they eat is a common source of frustration. Many people simply give up on actively making food choices or logging their meals despite the potential health risks.
In the past two years, a growing number of people have been turning to smartphone apps to help simplify the process. Medical research seems to indicate this is a good thing.
According to the Oct. 2012 issue of Clinical Diabetes, recent studies have repeatedly shown that smartphone apps are a useful tool for improving diabetes management and reducing hospitalization.
These apps provide accurate tracking of glucose levels, exercise and food choices. Information from the app can then be shared with doctors during regular visits. As a result, doctors are armed with more accurate information when making recommendations about diabetes management.
With the American Diabetes Association reporting that there are 25.8 million adults and children with diabetes in the U.S. alone, the number of smartphone apps being released specifically for this audience is hardly surprising.
“With a smartphone in your pocket, the process of tracking all the information your doctor wants becomes much easier,” said Pier Massa, CEO of Thrive365, which just released the beta version of a smartphone app to go with its patented food scoring system for people with diabetes.
Among the most highly rated smartphone apps, according to user reviews, are Glooko Logbook and Glucose Buddy. Both allow smartphone users to keep track of carbs, glucose levels, and physical activity throughout the day. Users can also view trends over time to see how eating and exercise affect their glucose levels.
Another app called GoMeals provides instant access to nutritional information on a wide variety of foods, helping people with diabetes to make smart decisions on the go. The app is plugged into nutritional databases that include packaged food, grocery store ingredients and even restaurant menu items at popular eateries nationwide.
The Thrive365 app is also tied into nutritional databases. It uses this information to calculate a diabetes score for individual foods and menu items. Users are then given a target score for each meal based on their personal health information. The goal is to choose foods that add up to the target score for each specific meal, without going over or under. Users can also log their meals, glucose levels and physical exercise in the app for simple tracking.
“Managing diabetes is an ‘every meal’ effort, which can be overwhelming. You can’t bank food from one meal to another so you have to get it right every time. This is one case where technology is definitely making life easier,” said Massa.
A number of medical studies are currently underway to evaluate which features of smartphone apps provide the greatest benefit in the management of diabetes.
For patients with diabetes, selecting the right app depends on their personal comfort level with smartphone technology. Since users are required to enter information into the app several times a day, the most important consideration is ease of use. Armed with the right apps, people with type 2 diabetes can take the frustration out of making and tracking food choices.