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The FUTURE of WELLNESS
Move over fit tech, it’s all about improving our overall wellbeing for 2022. Devinder Bains gives us the lowdown on the state-of-the-art devices and remedies that can help improve our sleep, metabolism, gut, immune system and mental health…
Remember lockdown when we filled our homes with exercise bikes and kettlebells? When we ordered in Fitbits to count our steps during our short-lived love for walking outdoors in the sweltering heat? Well lockdown is over, and so is the one-dimensional approach to our wellness that focuses solely on movement and the number of calories burned. Trends for 2022 and beyond are concentrating more on biohacking our brains, bodies, breath and blood to produce personalised health solutions where digital and data reign supreme. The global digital health market was valued at $111 billion (Dhs407 billion) in 2019 and is expected to reach $510.4 billion (Dhs18.7 trillion) by 2025 and $885 billion (Dhs32.5 trillion) by 2030. The future of health technology is filled with metabolism breathalysers, at-home blood tests for gut and hormone analysis, smart-wearables that can measure everything from sleep patterns to blood oxygen levels and even augmented reality apps that track posture and aura devices that can determine your chakra balance – yes, really.
“Health tech in general is an industry that is considered to be ‘the new fintech,’” explains Vadim Fedotov, CEO and co-founder of bioniq, a research-based health optimisation system that is available in the UAE, Russia and the UK. “This sector has been growing in double-digits for five-plus years, but the growth has been particularly stimulated by the Covid pandemic, which made everyone re-assess the importance of taking care of one’s health.” And the growing interest in the sector means that prevention rather than cure is the top priority for companies like bioniq, who aim to take the guessing game out of of which vitamins and minerals we should be taking to improve and maintain good health. They offer a personalised supplements service that can determine your deficiencies through regular blood tests to develop a daily mixture of edible granules containing the exact amount of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and prebiotics you need for optimal health. Regular follow up blood tests and sessions with a health expert help determine the ongoing changes needed to your unique formula and to your lifestyle.
“The bioniq blood tests check 50 parameters including liver function, vitamins and micro-elements, cholesterol, as well as some hormones,” explains Vadim of the original packages that cost around Dhs1,500 a month, although new for 2022, bioniq are offering UAE residents the chance to bypass the blood tests and access a more affordable option with bioniq Go for Dhs299 a month. The company has now amassed so much data that it can use algorithms paired with health questionnaires to produce the personalised supplements. “The future is in data and data collection,” shares Vadim. “The digitalisation of health monitoring provides unique tools for a disease-free nation. We’ve been collecting data for three years with one goal in mind – to make health accessible and actionable.”
Valeo Wellbeing is a health tracking and guided app where the journey also begins with an at-home blood test for UAE residents; choose from weight loss, post-Covid recovery, general wellbeing
and male or female hormone health packages. Valeo’s combination of blood data to determine biomarkers and the actionable advice from certified health coaches through the app is designed to help address a wide range of health and mental issues. This includes weight management, body image, emotional eating, smoking cessation, sleep problems, stress management, gut and digestive issues, low energy, fitness and movement, or lifestyle-related chronic diseases such as diabetes – a problem which is at epidemic proportions in the Middle East.
In the same vain, Signos Health, a wearable continuous glucose monitor with an AI-enhanced app primarily used to monitor weight loss in diabetic patients is being made available to non-diabetics for the first time this year. It offers continuous data and recommendations designed to drive healthy and sustained weight loss which in the long run could help prevent the disease.
Wearable tech in general is seeing huge advancements, with old faithfuls like Fitbit and Apple Watch both introducing mental health applications in an effort to keep up with wellness trends. The new Apple Watch Series 7 has completely revamped its Mindfulness app, adding two brand new modes to help combat stress: ‘Reflect’ which guides you through minute-long positive thoughts and affirmations and ‘Breathe’, which prompts you to take a break to concentrate on your breathing for 60 seconds. This is addition to the heart rate monitor which has the ability to alert you of any abnormal rhythms caused by stress, an ECG application, a new in-built sleep monitor and a blood oxygen indicator that can detect if you’re getting enough oxygen to the brain – look for a typical reading of somewhere between 95 and 100 per cent. There have also been reports in The Wall Street Journal that Apple is working on ways to help detect and diagnose conditions such as depression, anxiety and cognitive decline using an iPhone.
Alongside watches, more delicate pieces of smart jewellery such as bracelets, rings and necklaces that are fitted with safety devices, health tracking or promise pain relief remain a growing trend due to their offer of minimal effort and added style kudos. Lord of the wellness rings – Oura – recently released their Generation 3 version. It comes complete with advanced sensors that provide high precision heart rate and sleep pattern analysis, menstrual cycle tracking and prediction, as well as the ability to measure movement, physical activity, step count and offer guided wellness sessions through the linked app.
Alongside managing mental health and preventing disease and illness, there’s a growing interest in ‘metabolic flexibility’ and this is an area that’s likely to see new innovation when it comes to wellness tech. ‘Lumen’ – a handheld breathalyser, is currently the only metabolism tracking device available on the market. Metabolic flexibility is the body’s ability to correctly switch between using carbs and fat for energy, and improving this is key to healthier living. This promotes a better immune system, increases ability to build lean muscle, improves performance and energy levels, helps with natural weight loss and avoids blood sugar spikes. “What our metabolisms utilise for fuel is based on many different factors and is controlled by many different mechanisms. These differences can start in the process of digestion, or can happen in the bloodstream, or the cells themselves,” says Abigail Markman, customer support nutritionist for Lumen.
“Lumen uses the CO2 in your breath to determine if you are using carbs or fats for fuel. Ideally, a healthy metabolism will easily switch between using carbs or fats, and will use the fuel that is available efficiently. There are times you want to see your metabolism using a specific type of fuel, for example, a healthy metabolism will be in ‘fat burn’ in the morning,” explains Abigail.
The whole thing works by breathing into the Lumen tube device every morning, before and after meals and exercise, and again before bed; this data is then stored and analysed on the accompanying app. Lumen then tracks your metabolism before designing a nutrition plan that will make you more efficient at utilising available energy, and in turn improving your metabolic flexibility and overall health. Testing which macronutrients we’re burning at any given time is something that’s only really been available in labs for elite athletes but Lumen is now available in the Middle East, and this month adds a food log mechanism to its app.
“THE FUTUR E IS IN DATA A ND DATA COLLECTION” Va d im Fed otov CEO a n d c o -fo u n d e r