Cells get most of their energy from glucose, a kind of sugar that comes mainly from the food you eat and circulates in your blood. Because glucose is central to cellular function, your body’s glucose levels significantly impact how you feel in the short and long term. This goes for everyone. Yet research on daily glucose patterns tends to focus on people with diabetes, whose bodies are unable to use the sugar effectively. This leaves huge gaps in scientific knowledge related to glucose dynamics in the rest of the population.
To accelerate learning in this area, Levels launched an observational research study that members can volunteer to join. The study explores the relationship between blood glucose and food, exercise, age, sex, and other lifestyle choices. In addition, it aims to characterize glucose patterns in people without diabetes. In 2022, more than 10,000 members signed up to participate, and more enroll each week. To our knowledge, this amounts to the largest ever study on this topic in people without diabetes and a huge citizen science effort.
Read on to find out how you can join the study and what we hope to learn.
Toward a clearer picture of blood glucose
Currently, “blood sugar research” is more or less synonymous with “diabetes research.” Studies of glucose outside of this population typically measure levels at a single point in time (i.e., not continuously), failing to capture ongoing dynamics. More than a curious gap in data, this translates to real-world challenges.
If your glucose is dramatically high or low when you get your annual blood panel, your doctor may be able to identify an issue. However, if your levels fluctuate irregularly in response to food, stress, or exercise, your doctor (and you) will be in the dark. That’s because (a) a single blood test can’t capture dynamic responses to events, and (b) researchers lack a reference dataset of typical glucose levels and patterns over time among people without diabetes.
This lack of reference data is a serious problem. It means that we don’t know, for example, how glucose levels usually change in response to stress or sleep; we also don’t know whether spiking your blood sugar just once or twice a day might lead to long-term health issues like prediabetes. In fact, we don’t have a clear understanding of exactly how glucose patterns change as a person progresses from an optimal state to a pre-disease state and to disease—information that could help individuals or doctors intervene proactively. In short, we lack foundational knowledge about “normal” glucose levels in otherwise healthy people.
Understanding the glucose dynamics at play in diabetes is certainly important, but so too is understanding the dynamics that precipitate this condition. While Type 1 diabetes is genetic, Type 2 (which accounts for around 90% of diabetes) and prediabetes are largely preventable—the result of worsening glucose control over a period of years. By studying glucose levels only once they’ve reached the disease state, we’re missing opportunities to track—and prevent—these conditions.
To help people feel good and stay healthy, we need a comprehensive dataset of continuous glucose levels in people without diabetes. Our study—Glucose and Lifestyle Data Patterns in the General Population—can provide that dataset.
What is the Levels Study?
The Levels member community includes tens of thousands of people without diabetes who use continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) to track their blood sugar patterns as they go through their normal life over days, weeks, and months. In addition, members log food, sleep, and exercise, so they can see the effect of these factors on their glucose patterns. When a member volunteers to join the study, this data becomes anonymized and aggregated so that Levels researchers can learn from it while protecting members’ identities.
Using this large pool of data, researchers can achieve unprecedented clarity on: normal glucose dynamics in people without diabetes, the impact of specific dietary and lifestyle behaviors on those dynamics, and variations in glucose that might predict health complications.
Note that in our search to identify “normal” glucose dynamics, we don’t anticipate finding a single range that is static across populations. Glucose levels vary depending on gender, age, lifestyle factors, and other variables. Our study aims to develop a clearer picture of how those variables interact so you can better understand what’s normal for you and spot any deviations from that norm. In addition to helping us build a better product, these findings can serve as a resource for academic and medical researchers studying metabolic health.
How can I participate?
When you join Levels, you’ll be asked whether you’d like to enroll in the study. To participate, you need: a smartphone, the Levels app, the Dexcom CGM app, and the Dexcom CGM sensor. If you decide to join the study, we will request that you:
- Provide your consent for Levels to collect data from your Levels app, including your CGM data, Apple Health or Google Fit data, and other data.
- Complete periodic short surveys about your demographics and medical history.
- Record information about your food, exercise, and other lifestyle activities.
Data privacy and ethics
By opting into the study, participants agree to the use of their data for internal research at Levels. The anonymized dataset may also serve as a resource for academic research. If you choose to opt into the study, you can also opt out at any time, for any reason.
To protect your privacy, we commit to following data ethics principles:
- Your personally identifiable health data belongs to you (not us).
- We respect your right to privacy and will protect your information.
- We don’t sell your data.
- How can I access my Informed Consent form?
- What are the benefits of participating in the Levels Research?
- Who is the study’s principal investigator?
- Will I be notified of study updates?
- Who can participate in Levels Research?
- How will my data be used in the Levels Research?
- Can I purchase more than one study kit?
- Who can I ask questions about the study?
- Full list of FAQs
Who can I contact with questions?
Please email the Levels research team at [email protected]