If you or anyone you know is diabetic, this is a very important story. You may have heard about a bunch of new apps that claim to calculate how much your next insulin dose should be. Imagine how convenient it would be to do that with your phone instead of carrying around a standalone dose calculator.
But beware the promises these apps make. Almost none is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. And the one that is, BlueStar, requires a prescription from your doctor to assist with type 2 diabetes management.
BuzzFeed reports that Kit Huckvale, a researcher at Imperial College London, led a study of 46 iOS and Android apps in 2013 and 2014 that claimed to calculate what your insulin dosage should be. Theoretically, a user would tell the app the amount of carbs they planned to eat, and it would calculate the insulin dosage they should take before eating to offset the blood sugar spike.
Here's what could go wrong: Insulin overdoses can cause nausea, headaches and dizziness, and even coma and seizures in the worst cases. Do you want to trust an unregulated app to advise you on your insulin dose?
Huckvale and his team found that of the 46 insulin calculation apps tested, less than a third even explained how their calculations worked. And two-thirds of the apps recommended potentially dangerous doses. Scary!
According to the team's assessment, the apps “provide no protection against, and may actively contribute to, incorrect or inappropriate dose recommendations that put current users at risk of both catastrophic overdose and more subtle harms resulting from suboptimal glucose control.”
The bottom line is that you don't want to trust your health with apps. Follow your doctor's advice, not your smartphone's.
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