Wearable Technologies & Personalized Nutrition
Wearable technologies, commonly referred to as wearables, are electronic devices that can be worn on the body to measure health-related data. The most popular wearables are wristwear, followed by eyewear & headwear, footwear, neckwear, and bodywear.
The wearable technology market has been growing and is forecasted to exceed 186.14 billion USD in revenue by 2030. Consumers aged 18-34 are the biggest population using wearables. Females, people with a college education, and household income exceeding $75000 are more likely to use wearable devices.
Wearables are used to monitor chemical, physiological, and biological changes. Therefore, they can give insights into a wide range of health-related data, including but not limited to blood pressure, pulse and heart rate, glucose, electrolytes, hormones, and physical activity metrics. Access to an individual's data by non-invasive methods such as wearables opens the door for personalized nutrition interventions.
How do wearables improve personalized nutrition?
New wearables have been developed to monitor, screen, detect and predict health-related outcomes and diseases. Here are just a few examples of wearables and their importance for personalized nutrition:
- Continues glucose & ketone detection sensors: Blood glucose and ketone detection have great importance for diabetic patients, people who follow ketogenic diets, and athletes. Wearable sensors (patches) give continuous and real-time blood glucose and ketone levels, contrary to conventional methods that give single time data representing measurement time. Continuous blood and ketone detection by non-invasive, user-friendly, low-cost, and accessible methods such as wearables can drastically improve personalized nutrition interventions.
- Sensors monitoring sodium intake: Sodium monitoring is vital for people with cardiovascular diseases, the leading cause of death globally. Patients try to monitor sodium intake by reading labels and using apps that do not provide actual data. These methods demand continuous effort from the patients, which is a real barrier to improving patients' health. Oral sensors monitoring real-time sodium intake are developing. Having the data on sodium intake can shape personalized nutrition interventions, especially for people with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases and patients with cardiovascular diseases.
- Saliva-based sensors: Saliva contains ions, urea, uric acid, cholesterol, creatine, fatty acids, protein, and hormones. Saliva-based sensors such as smart bands, brackets, and pacifiers are on the market.
Hormone sensors: Hormones regulate the body's functions, including metabolism, weight regulation, appetite, and dietary intake. For example, wearables commonly measure cortisol by sweat, blood, and saliva. The data can help personalized nutrition interventions for weight management since the hormone cortisol is associated with stress, metabolism, and food intake.
- Physical activity trackers: Physical activity metrics are the most common feature of wearables used by consumers. Wearables give data on various physical activity indicators such as daily steps, workouts, cardio fitness estimates, VO2 max (showing maximal aerobic capacity), and recovery time. These data can inform the healthcare professional about a patient's lifestyle, which can improve interventions prescribed to patients because sedentary lifestyles are common among people and contribute to important health problems.
Current market trends and partnership examples
- Supersapiens delivers Abbott Libre Sense glucose sport biosensor measuring real-time blood glucose levels. The Supersaphiens app gives personalized guidance to improve fueling efficiency and performance.
- Apple Watch & InsideTracker partnership allows users to integrate activity tracking features of Apple Watch with the InsideTracker personalized guidance to reach fitness goals and tips for sleep optimization.
- Garmin & Body Kitchen collaborated to provide health monitoring and nutrition coaching for esports teams.
- Royal Dutch Group (DSM) & Huami give users personalized nutrition and physical activity guides based on real-time health data AmazaFit (by Humai) provides.
Current challenges of using wearables
Wearable technologies are continuously getting better at measuring health-related data. However, there are challenges in the use of wearables in digital health and clinical use:
- Overestimation and overprediction are common issues among wearable technologies, as reported by the European Commission.
- Data quality is affected by the variability of sensors. The same biomarkers (take blood oxygen saturation) can be measured from various body parts by various wearables (such as smart watches, rings, and pulse oximeters). These variabilities in data create problems in data quality.
- Health equity and representativity of the dataset: Wearables mostly target specific age, social and economic groups more than others, which results in inequity.
- Affordability: High price is a big issue for most people willing to use wearables.
- Information security: The consumer's personal data can be stored by wearables in digital clouds to analyze consumer data.
- Regulatory requirements: Regulations that are flexible enough to facilitate innovation and protect public health are needed to expand the use of wearable technologies in healthcare.
- Consumer preferences and habits: Consumers abandoned their wearables for various reasons, including limited functionality, the lack of inbuilt technology, no inbuilt internet connectivity, inaccurate data and information, poor integration with other devices, fast battery drain, and poor design.
Wearable technologies have emerged as electronic devices worn on the body to measure health-related data. With the market growing rapidly, businesses have recognized the potential of wearables to improve personalized nutrition interventions. Wearables can monitor chemical, physiological, and biological changes, providing insights into a wide range of health-related data that can inform business strategies.
New wearables have been developed to monitor health-related outcomes and diseases, including continuous glucose & ketone detection sensors, sensors monitoring sodium intake, saliva-based sensors, hormone sensors, and physical activity trackers. Wearables can drastically improve personalized nutrition interventions by providing access to an individual's data through non-invasive methods.
However, challenges remain in using wearables in digital health and clinical use, such as overestimation and overprediction, variability of sensors, health equity and representativity of the dataset, affordability, information security, regulatory requirements, and consumer preferences and habits. Despite these challenges, wearables are rapidly becoming essential tools for businesses seeking to improve personalized nutrition interventions for their customers.
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