Diabetes patient Rob Geerdink can manage with fewer medicines. He lost weight, has his blood sugar under control and above all feels much better. With the ‘fitbit for diabetes patients’ he immediately sees the effect of what he eats.
This is the very last step before you have to go on insulin, the doctor warned earlier this year. The 47-year-old Geerdink was shocked. “While I knew that I didn’t always eat healthy, didn’t move enough and that the informal care for my son entails the necessary stress.”
Geerdink is one of twelve diabetes type 2 patients who participated in a study by Topfit Citizenlab and Clear. The participants were given a blood glucose sensor on their arm twice for six weeks. “That didn’t just provide insight into which foods lead to sugar peaks,” says nutritionist Myriam Schneider of Clear. Many diabetic patients suffer from sweating, a restless feeling or shaking. “We see that participants were able to link that feeling to what they ate.”
“The sensor is a kind of mirror”, Geerdink acknowledges. ,,It immediately shows the effect of what I work inwards. Of course I knew I should leave out sweets. But I thought: everyone eats bread and pasta, how bad can it be?”
Multigrain bread is not always healthy whole grain, dietician Jolande van Teeffelen knows. And a glass of fruit juice has just as much influence on sugar levels as a glass of Coke. “It’s not bad at all to eat what you like once,” says Van Teeffelen, who supervised the participants. “It’s a shame if you think you’re being healthy, when you’re not.”
Diabetes patients’ participants get a grip on their illness. “I have a patient who quickly feels like she has low blood sugar. She compensates for that with Coke and Dextro. Through the sensor she sees that the low blood sugar is not that bad and she said: ‘Jolande, I’d better eat a brown sandwich’.” Everyone can participate, says Van Teeffelen, but at their own expense. She argues that the sensor, which costs 139 euros once (for 14 days) or 119 euros monthly, should be reimbursed by the basic insurance.
Geerdink was surprised that he reacted more to pizza than to chocolate. ,,After a pizza, my sugar level remained high until the next morning. If my wife and son feel like pizza, I think twice now.”
Like other participants, Geerdink lost kilos, he can lose weight with less medication and he feels fitter. His new diet is also tastier than he thought. “Cauliflower rice is fine.” The only thing he’s missing are licorice. ,,I live in Twente and work in Apeldoorn. When I got to the office, the bag was gone. Now I occasionally eat a sugar-free licorice.”