Levels is an app that provides real-time feedback on how diet and lifestyle choices impact metabolic health. COURTESY OF LEVELS
Instagram accounts dedicated to the topic of glucose and the intersection of skin, hormones and fatigue are few and far between. However, biochemist and author Jessie Inchauspé, otherwise known as @glucosegoddess, is the exception.
Inchauspé has been educating her 515,000 followers on balancing blood sugar since 2019 with clever graphs and visuals to make metabolic health digestible. A few years ago, before she started, people didn’t seem to care about their glucose levels — but times have changed.
Today, an array of tests and continuous glucose monitors on the market are measuring metabolism and providing valuable insights to inform more than just the rise and fall of blood sugar levels.
According to the Global Wellness Institute, preventive and personalized medicine and public health is a $575 billion-dollar market. This sector includes expenditures on medical services that focus on treating “well” people, preventing disease, or detecting risk factors — for example, routine physical exams, diagnostic and screening tests and genetic testing.
That said, a slew of brands like Lumen, Levels, and Everlywell are utilizing continuous glucose monitors, devices, apps and diagnostic testing to give users the opportunity to gain insight into their metabolic health.
“Personalized medicine is the future,” said Chika Okoli, MD, founder of functional medicine practice, Re-well. “And metabolic health encompasses our overall health. It’s what connects all of our systems together, whether it’s our hormone system, the health of our cells, our digestive system, our central nervous system and our brain health.”
Lumen, a handheld, portable breathalyzer that measures the body’s carbon dioxide concentration, is meant to help indicate the type of fuel the body is using to produce energy. The app then provides a personalized nutrition program on when and what to eat based on the user’s metabolism.
“Until now, the health and wellness industry has been experiencing a major lack of data and real-time insights in the nutrition sphere,” said Michal Mor, founder and chief of metabolic health at Lumen. “Our goal is to take the guesswork out of what or when you should eat and how you should exercise on a daily basis from moment to moment.”
Trendalytics reported that metabolism searches for Lumen as a brand are up 13 percent.
“By understanding how your body reacts to what you eat and how you exercise throughout the day, you can give your body exactly what it needs,” added Mor. “Essentially, we are teaching your body how to better fuel itself and function properly for life.”
Similarly, Levels, an app that leverages a continuous glucose monitor, provides real-time feedback on how diet and lifestyle choices impact metabolic health. “There are so many different health conditions related to glucose,” said Dr. Casey Means, Levels cofounder and chief medical officer. “We’re focused on the root cause approach at Levels, which is if you can stabilize your glucose and increase your metabolic health, it can have multifarious positive effects on different parts of the body. For example, for someone who is trying to get on top of their acne or their wrinkles, by stabilizing their glucose and improving their glycemic variability and their metabolic health, they are going to be on a similar path to someone who may be trying to stabilize blood glucose.”
Lara Briden, naturopathic doctor and author, agrees that insulin resistance is a well-known driver of breakouts, and with perimenopause, most women will experience a greater risk of insulin resistance. “Not everyone that has insulin resistance will get bad skin, but it’s a common risk because in women, insulin increases testosterone, but not in a good way,” she said. “So that’s the classic [polycystic ovary syndrome] picture. And during menopause, it’s safe to say that will accelerate aging to some extent, wrinkles and things like that, but it’s not the only factor.”
More recently, Levels added a new service, offering users the ability to have a phlebotomist come to their home and draw blood to do a series of lab tests, $179, that aim to provide understanding and a more comprehensive picture of metabolic health.
“It’s the tests that your doctor is probably not going to order, but the research shows they are really important for metabolic health,” said Means. “For example, a fasting insulin test, which is something that most people have never had before. It’ll also have some standard things like a full cholesterol panel and a fasting glucose test, a hemoglobin A1C, but also inflammatory markers. Then you’re able to get these labs reported through your Levels app. And what we’ve done is work with our advisory board to create content, showing people what the optimal ranges for these tests are and how to interpret the labs in a really nuanced way, as opposed to the very generalized feedback we often get from the doctor’s office.”
Everlywell, too, believes in the importance of understanding more about an individual’s metabolism by testing three different hormones, cortisol, free testosterone and thyroid-stimulating hormone. “One thing that I always emphasize is we are one part of a solution,” said Julia Cheek, chief executive officer and founder of Everly Health. “We are not the full suite. And it’s really important that we take part in responsibility in helping people navigate toward next steps or other solutions as necessary. Metabolism specifically, is responsible for daily energy, daily mood, how you feel and how you show up in the world every day. Five years ago, people talked a lot about metabolism solely related to weight.”
Okoli echoed that sentiment and believes the best approach to beauty is from the inside out. “I based my training that most skin conditions are inflammatory and metabolic health is very closely tied to inflammation,” she said. “Glucose causes inflammation and sugar causes inflammation. So when you’re eating those foods and your body sees that as stressful, you’re getting inflammation from a couple of different sources, which can exacerbate a skin condition.”
Because metabolic health is linked to hormones, Veracity makes it its mission to test five hormones that are scientifically linked to specific skin conditions. “We’re focused on hormones from a skin perspective,” said Allie Egan, founder and CEO of Veracity. “We are not specifically giving you all the details into your metabolic health. We can’t really do that through what we’re measuring or what we’re focused on. But we’re taking a whole health approach and helping to push the study between these connections and giving our customers some resources and insights into things that they can be doing to improve this as well. If you have more balanced hormones, you’re going to have better skin. You’re going to have a better metabolism. You’re going to have better digestion.”
Trendalytics reported that searches for hormonal health are up 7 percent to last year. “Hormonal health is becoming a part of the larger conversation of wellness,” said Kristin Breakell, content manager at Trendalytics.
“One thing to keep in mind about blood sugar is lots of things affect it,” added Briden. “Stress affects it, how much sleep you’ve had. It’s a lot of data that you don’t quite know what to do with.”
Enter Hearty, a digital clinic that offers a tailor-made health program providing in-depth health insights through in-home testing and monitoring. The $500-a-month membership comes with a slew of wearables like the Oura Ring and a continuous glucose monitor by Dexcom, in-home testing, a concierge medical team, and an app to track progress and aggregate information.
“Metabolic health is a big issue right now and how it impacts daily life,” said Dr. David Luu, MD, founder of Hearty. We gather what you eat, the impact of what you eat on your health, how you sleep, your stress, how you exercise, your body composition, combined with all the different genetics, and understanding where you start and where you can optimize. The less inflammation, the better your skin, the better metabolic flexibility, the better body composition, the better lipid panel, the better sleep. And so we monitor that. That’s why we use wearables to keep people accountable, but to show results.”
Last year, a study came out of the University of North Carolina that showed 88 percent of Americans are metabolically unhealthy. “This means only 12 percent of Americans are healthy metabolically, noted Okoli, “which translates clinically into things like obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiac cancer. So we cannot talk about hormone health, metabolic health, and blood testing without talking about what we’re eating and its effect.”