Precision Medicine and the Future of Health Tracking
Florence Comite MDJuly 14, 2021
When it comes to improving our fitness, reducing our waistline, or even getting better sleep, around one in five Americans rely on wearable tech to help them reach their goals. But do they tell us what’s really happening in our bodies?
While the inclusion of heart rate sensors on fitness trackers has arguably improved accuracy, one 2019 study showed that trackers had an “inherent tendency” to overestimate calorie burn, with one overestimating by more than 50%. Other studies have also called into question the accuracy of heart rate data.
The reason for the discrepancy is often because these devices make assumptions based on generalized data using averages from standardized conventional medical studies – but this is about to change.
Florence Comite, CEO & Founder of Groq Health and expert in precision medicine for more than two decades, argues that, used correctly, wearables can be instrumental in transforming patient outcomes.
“I want to debunk the idea of optimal health being about restrictive eating, celebrity diets or measuring your success against arbitrary targets, such as eight hours of sleep or 10,000 daily steps,” she says. “These measurements are often referenced as if applicable for tracking progress against a scientific normal – yet factual evidence is absent, and rarely applies to everyone.” Instead, Dr. Comite and her team of physician-scientists, clinicians, and exercise physiologists, tailor interventions according to a person’s specific makeup as part of a highly customized program of precision medicine. She explains: “The best way to determine what works for you is to monitor responses over time – and the more you can learn about yourself, the better equipped you are to work with your body, allowing you to optimize your health in a sustainable way.
“We use the latest digital health technology to obtain real-time, n-of-1, objective data about an individual’s carbohydrate (glucose or sugar) metabolism, sleep cycle and quality, REM and deep sleep, heart rate variability, resting heart rate, and more, which gives a true picture of the individual.
“We then interpret the findings, connecting the dots to yield insights and make recommendations for fat loss, hormonal optimization, and improved sleep dynamics.”
Among these technologies is continuous glucose monitoring (GCM), which not only is a hot trend for patients with diabetes, freeing them from finger prick testing, but a huge frontier for consumer wearables. An incredible 2.57bn has been spent in the US on the development of glucose-related technology this year alone.
So why is this such a game-changer? The answer lies, once again, with precision medicine, and the knowledge that, as unique individuals, we respond differently to stimuli at the cellular level. A simple example is the way our bodies respond to discrete food choices.
Dr. Comite explains: “Most people are aware of how certain foods can cause blood sugar to spike, triggering hunger pangs when levels fall. However, what people probably aren’t aware of is that this isn’t a universal response, so some folks would spike after eating a cookie, but others would spike after a banana, or a bowl of pasta. This could be due to a host of reasons, including metabolism, genomics, or your unique gut microbiome, which is as individual as our fingerprint.
“Having access to this data, along with information on how your body responds to other factors such as exercise and stress, enables patients to make informed choices about their daily habits. This in turn results in dramatic, life-changing transformation to overall health.”
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