If you’re looking for deeper insights than your average smartwatch can offer, Nutrisense is looking for your business.
Part of a growing trend of “biowearables”, Nutrisense is a health platform built on top of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), which can look at how your body responds to food intake.
Historically only of interest to type 1 and some type 2 diabetics, there are a handful of services now bringing this technology to those without glycaemic needs.
We tried Nutrisense for two weeks – and it's important to state here that this is through the lens of someone without diabetes or specific needs, and purely a lifestyle experience. Here are our experiences.
Revealed: Apple's glucose moonshot technology
What is Nutrisense, and why bother?
First up, why would you use Nutrisense?
- Insights: Nutrisense allows for an in-depth look at how your body reacts to specific foods. It can help you to avoid those that cause blood sugar spikes, which may contribute to weight gain, inflammation, and other health issues.
- Real-Time monitoring: Nutrisense provides continuous feedback on your glucose levels. This immediate insight can inform dietary decisions on a day-to-day basis and help improve long-term dietary habits.
- Health improvement: Understanding your body's unique responses to food can help manage or even prevent certain health conditions, like diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Nutrisense might also be useful for weight loss, athletic performance, or managing energy levels.
Price and subscription
Now here’s a dose of reality – Nutrisense is seriously expensive, mostly due to the high cost of CGMs. Nutrisense provides several subscription options:
- A one-month subscription costs $399, with monthly billing.
- A three-month subscription costs $299 per month, requiring a commitment for three months.
- A six-month subscription costs $250 per month, needing a six-month commitment.
- A 12-month subscription costs $225 per month, demanding a 12-month commitment.
If subscribers wish to extend the dietitian service beyond the initial month, it's available for an additional fee of $100 per month.
So it would cost over $2,000 a year, just for the lowest-priced offering. That means that for most people, a short-term subscription is justifiable, to get the insights and then apply them to your daily routine.
The initiation procedure was straightforward, albeit slightly intimidating. The Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) is housed in a rather large applicator, which can seem a bit formidable at first.
The CGM is pre-set inside this applicator. You simply select a spot on your arm, press down, and the device gets embedded into the skin with a soft 'needle' underneath.
I was told the process wouldn't cause any pain. While it did cause minor discomfort, it wasn't overly painful. However, I ended up positioning it too low on my arm, a mistake I'm sure I won't repeat.
This placement made the CGM continually noticeable and prone to accidental bumps. Next time, I would place it higher up on my tricep.
After the CGM is attached to your skin and you've set up the NutriSense app, pairing the two is exceptionally easy. Unlike the often tedious Bluetooth pairing process, you simply tap your phone against the sensor, utilizing Near Field Communication (NFC). This action allows any un-synced blood glucose data to be transferred into the NutriSense app.
So how do you use Nutrisense?
The CGM sits on your upper arm and tracks your blood glucose levels – that much is obvious.
Because CGMs use NFC not Bluetooth, there’s no continuous transfer of data to the app. So you need to manually tap your phone to the unit to transfer data. This is pretty much instantaneous but is a pain when you have to do it through clothes, and it can be fiddly to pair.
You have about 5 seconds to tap the sensor before it informs you that the pairing wasn’t successful, and then you have to tap a couple of buttons to restart. Quite annoying if you’re trying to sync through your shirt.
And the reason you need to tap so much is that the sensor has an 8-hour memory, so you need to be on top of your data or huge gaps appear. In the beginning, we were tapping every 30 mins, addicted to seeing these real-time bio-insights. But as the novelty wore off and the data got predictable, we started to forget.
Also, 8 hours isn’t long around bedtime. If you tap a couple of hours before bed and forget for a couple of hours in the morning, you could easily miss six hours of data.
We have to say, the app does feel like it needs a redesign, and the look and feel are very 2015 wearable tech, and it isn’t as polished as the January app.
Nutrisense needs to know what you eat or the data is meaningless, so the logging of food in a timely manner is essential. And let’s face it, it’s a bit of a pain.
There are a few stages needed to add a meal, and we did find it difficult to get really accurate input. Before long, we managed to get meals vaguely right, but adding portion sizes, amounts, or extras you might have had is difficult and time-consuming.
It’s easy to get vague data that might help your nutritionist make associations between your biometric data and the food eaten. But getting things accurate enough to start counting macros means some serious time invested.
We’d like to see more AI used, either by pictures of food or audio inputs to make the tagging process easier.
Looking at data is easy, and the curve showing your glucose is pretty easy to understand and shows when you might be slightly or seriously out of range.
Events, such as workouts or meals/snacks are shown as dots on the timeline, and that makes it pretty obvious what’s driving spikes.
And syncing with Apple Health means that workout and exercise data is automatically added to the timeline.
Data – and your personal nutritionist
While Nutrisense talks a lot about the benefits of glucose tracking for weight loss, performance, and other health benefits, the data in its app is quite raw. That means that any applications of data will need to be interpreted either by yourself, or an expert.
There’s a traffic light system that shows key glucose stats, and this would be your first indicator that your body is struggling with sugar. All of ours were generally green, with a couple of warnings that we were getting large swings in glucose.
The good news is that Nutrisense provides an expert, via a chat service in the app, who can provide you with answers to your questions, and guidance to specific health goals.
Our data did see some foods trigger us going out of range, so our expert was able to provide some ideas about what that could be, and how to mitigate the effects. Bananas eaten before morning dog walks seem to regularly spike our glucose levels – so the advice was given to eat some protein alongside things like bananas.
If you have specific goals about weight loss or athletic performance, you can chat these through with your nutritionist.
What did I learn?
Before I donned Nutrisense, I had no idea what my body was doing when I ate.
After two weeks, I have a pretty full picture. But it’s not that interesting. That won’t be the case for everyone – and many people will discover things about their bodies that could be life-changing.
I learned how food – not just sugary treats but also fruit and carbs – affected my blood sugar. And wearing a CGM made me more accountable, and make better decisions.
But the app itself still seems geared towards diabetics, than a lifestyle audience.
Access to a nutritionist and a forum for limitless advice and discussion wasn’t an aspect of the app that I was expecting, and makes Nutrisense a powerful companion.
But the eye-watering price is such a stumbling block, and as ever, the people who need this most will be those least likely to afford it.
If you have specific nutrition aims in mind, then a period with Nutrisense can be an eye-opening investment. But we feel it’s too costly to use long term, with too few insights for those without specific glycaemic needs.
How we test