You may have heard the buzzword "glucotype" floating around the health and wellness space. It’s often used when talking about precision medicine or personalized nutrition to differentiate people’s metabolic types. But what exactly does the term glucotype mean, and how can understanding it help you improve your own metabolic health?
What is a glucotype?
The term “glucotype” emerged from a study in which researchers used continuous glucose monitors to record nearly half a million glucose measurements from 57 participants . All of the study participants were considered to be healthy, but the results showed drastic variability in their glucose responses.
Scientists found three distinct types of glucose responses: low, moderate, and severe. These categories were based on different levels of glucose variability, meaning how much and how quickly a person's blood sugar levels change.
The researchers coined the term “glucotype” to describe the inter-individual variability they observed in blood glucose levels — in simpler terms, they use the word glucotype as a way to classify how people's glucose levels respond differently to different stimuli. People with a low glucotype showed relatively stable blood glucose levels, whereas those with a severe glucotype had frequent or large spikes in blood sugar.
The idea behind glucotypes is important for individual healthcare, but the classification doesn’t fully explain the nuances of blood glucose regulation.
Although glucotypes themselves don't hold a lot of weight, the general idea behind glucotypes sets the stage for understanding individual variability in glucose responses and can help you to gain personal information on how to balance your blood sugar levels.
The bioindividuality of your glucose response
Instead of glucotype, a term we like to use when talking about glucose responses is bioindividuality. This better describes the inherently different response that each unique individual has — no two people will have identical reactions to the same lifestyle and dietary choices.
Your individual glucose response is impacted by many factors, both extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic factors are those we can control – these factors are responsible for changes within an individual. While many of the extrinsic lifestyle factors we talk about in the Four Pillars, like meal composition, exercise, sleep, and stress, definitely affect glucose levels, not everyone will respond the same way to these factors . Intrinsic factors are those we are born with and cannot control — these show the differences between people.
Bioindividuality deals with the way we differ in our intrinsic factors.
- Genetics: Certain genes, like those that regulate insulin secretion and action, affect how your body responds to glucose . Genetic predisposition can make some people more sensitive to spikes in blood sugar.
- Microbiome: The bacteria in your gut have been shown to influence glucose metabolism . For instance, certain gut microbes produce molecules that improve insulin signaling. When the amount of these microbes changes, insulin signaling can be disrupted and insulin resistance can occur.
- Other factors: Age, sex, and hormonal balance can also contribute to glucose variability. For example, hormonal fluctuations with menstrual cycles or during menopause can affect insulin sensitivity.
Glucose variability and why bioindividuality matters
Understanding the bioindividual factors that affect glucose levels has implications for your metabolic health, both in the short-term and long-term. Glucose variability — or the fluctuations in blood sugar — is an indicator of how well your body's metabolism is functioning. High variability, characterized by consistent or frequent spikes and dips can indicate you are experiencing metabolic dysfunction, making glucose levels an important measure to track [1, 3].
Knowing more about your own bioindividuality is crucial in optimizing your glucose regulation and preventing metabolic diseases. Research has shown that high glucose variability can be a precursor to poor metabolic outcomes, even in people who do not have conditions like type 2 diabetes . In the body, high glucose variability causes oxidative stress, excessive protein glycation, and endothelial dysfunction, which are all related to increased inflammation and cardiovascular disease risk .
While many bioindividual factors contribute to the complexity of individual glucose responses, there are general habits that can be helpful to anyone in reaching their metabolic health goals. For example, avoiding refined sugars and processed foods is widely recognized as beneficial for maintaining healthy blood glucose levels and can be a great starting point on your metabolic health journey.
However, relying only on general population benchmarks may not lead you to optimal metabolic health. If you feel like you are following general health guidelines and still not seeing results, using tools like a continuous glucose monitor can help you take a more personalized approach. A CGM allows you to pinpoint what your glucose response is and what may be causing your glucose variability. This can give you a better indication of where you fall on the metabolic health spectrum, and take steps to tailor guidelines to your lifestyle.
Understanding your personal metabolic healthspan
Traditional blood glucose tests (like fasting blood sugar or oral glucose tolerance test) can be useful in understanding how you compare to healthy ranges, but they don't give a full picture of bioindividuality or the daily fluctuations in blood sugar .
Understanding your unique glucose responses and patterns can optimize your metabolism, and tools like CGMs and Veri can be incredibly helpful in this endeavor.
Research has shown that CGMs can be used as a screening tool for the early detection of abnormal glucose regulation and potential metabolic diseases, as well as a tool for lifestyle optimization [5, 8]. When combined, a CGM and Veri can show how your glucose levels rise and fall throughout the day, in order to better understand your bioindividuality and how your intrinsic factors impact your glucose responses.
Veri’s Metabolic Healthspan feature allows you not only to track your glucose responses in real-time, but combine this information with your unique statistics and patterns that lead to personalized insights into how your body reacts to different lifestyle factors.
- Glucotype is a term that is used to describe the variability in how an individual’s glucose levels respond to various factors.
- Intrinsic factors, like your genetics and microbiome, and extrinsic factors, like the Four Pillars, contribute to this variability. This bioindividuality means that managing glucose is not one-size-fits-all.
- Continuous glucose monitoring and Veri can provide personalized insights and are resources for optimizing your metabolic health and healthspan.