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Smartphone Apps for Diabetes: Do They Really Work?

You can use them to count carbs, log blood sugar, but users say they're no substitute for patient knowledge and a doctor's care


No matter what apps you use, they're no substitute for regular visits to your doctor and education by a dietitian, an expert said.

"Apps don't replace your doctor," said Shelley Wishnick, a diabetes educator and registered dietitian with the Friedman Diabetes Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City. "You still have to understand the disease process. You have to understand your diabetes. An app can't replace your education."

Wishnick said she doesn't have a lot of patients who rely on diabetes apps yet -- or those who do don't bring it to her attention. There are a number of apps, such as iBGStar, OneTouch Reveal, OnTrack Diabetes, Glucool, Glooko and Glucose Buddy, that can help you track your blood sugar levels, she said.

But, Wishnick said, nothing beats writing down the numbers.

"If you don't write it, you're not feeling it," she said. But apps that record your blood sugar numbers could be helpful for identifying trends, such as high blood sugar levels after eating certain foods or at particular times during the day, she said.

One area in which many people with diabetes need help is carbohydrate counting. People with type 2 diabetes who aren't using insulin often need to limit the number of carbs they consume in a meal.

Moreover, people with type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 who need insulin must always know how many carbs are in foods so they can give themselves the right amount of insulin, a hormone that helps process carbs.

With her daughter, O'Flaherty said, "Even before she was released from her hospital stay when she was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic, I had Calorie King and Diabetes 360 installed on my smartphone."

Other nutrition apps include Fooducate, Restaurant Nutrition and GoMeals.

With everything people with diabetes have to keep track of, it can be easy to forget a blood sugar check or miss a dose of medication. Apps such as Glucose Buddy and Dbees can help remind you to take care of these tasks. You set the alerts and reminders you want to receive, and your phone will let you know when it's time for a certain task.

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