Shelter-in-place orders have created their share of problems for everyone, but in some cases, response to the COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive effect. According to an analysis of recent data from Diabits, a diabetes management app, staying home last spring may have had a positive impact on the lives of diabetes patients.

Healthy dietary and lifestyle choices are critical points in managing both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Yet many adults with diabetes don’t get enough exercise or consistently follow a low-glycemic diet. Interestingly, Bio Conscious, maker of the Diabits app, believes its user data indicates that sheltering in place may have helped some diabetes patients take better care of themselves.

Diabits uses AI to predict changes in blood glucose level (BGL) before they occur in patients who use a continuous glucose monitor. It also helps these users track their “time-in-range,” or the amount of time they spend each day with a BGL between 70-180 mg/dL. Experts recommend that patients with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes spend at least 70% of each day within the target range.

Before mid-March, when U.S. states initiated shelter-in-place orders in response to COVID-19, Diabits users remained in-range about 66% of the time, with an average BGLs of 159 mg/dl. After mid-March, however, time-in-range rose to 68% while the average BGL dropped to 156 mg/dl.

Pre-pandemic, Diabits users typically exhibited higher BGLs on the weekends, especially on Saturday and Sunday. Weekend indulgences in sugary foods and alcohol likely cause these fluctuations. Since shelter-in-place orders took effect across the U.S., that pattern began to shift. BGLs became more stable throughout the week, possibly because weekday and weekend activities have fewer differences under stay-at-home orders. 

While not clinically validated, the Diabits data suggests that reducing daily obligations, time spent commuting, and workplace stress may positively impact nutrition and lifestyle, allowing patients with diabetes to improve their health and better manage the disease.