Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

FDA warning about smartwatch blood sugar measurements makes me hopeful about the Apple Watch

Published Feb 22nd, 2024 6:50AM EST
Apple Watch Series 9
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

I’m an Apple Watch user who relies on Apple’s wearable to monitor health parameters and keep track of my fitness routines with a specific focus on running. As such, I’m looking forward to two particular features that Apple has been developing for years. These are blood pressure and blood sugar sensors that routinely pop up in rumors detailing the future of the Apple Watch

I’ve written extensively on why such sensors would be so important. The blood glucose sensor is the most exciting of the two. I think the ability to measure blood sugar levels non-invasively would be a game-changer feature. It wouldn’t just help current people with diabetes, as it might help detect the onset of diabetes early. 

There’s no development on that, certainly not something that Apple would announce during this time of year. But the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just issued a warning against the purchase of current wearable devices that claim they can offer blood sugar readings without a blood sample. It’s a warning that actually gives me great hope for the future of the Apple Watch.

Without naming any brands, the FDA warning mentions devices like smartwatches and smart rings that claim to measure blood sugar without piercing the skin. The FDA warns users not to rely on unauthorized devices, as they might lead to unfortunate accidents: 

For people with diabetes, inaccurate blood glucose measurements can lead to errors in diabetes management, including taking the wrong dose of insulin, sulfonylureas, or other medications that can rapidly lower blood glucose. Taking too much of these medications can quickly lead to dangerously low glucose, leading to mental confusion, coma, or death within hours of the error.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 with blood oxygen feature / Apple Watch ban
An Apple Watch Ultra 2 performing a blood oxygen reading. Image source: José Adorno for BGR

Furthermore, the FDA says it has not “authorized, cleared, or approved” any wearable that can estimate blood sugar without a blood sample. But these devices might be available on the market right now: 

Sellers of these smartwatches and smart rings claim their devices measure blood glucose levels without requiring people to prick their fingers or pierce the skin. They claim to use non-invasive techniques. These smartwatches and smart rings do not directly test blood glucose levels.

These smartwatches and smart rings are manufactured by dozens of companies and sold under multiple brand names. This safety communication applies to any smartwatch or smart ring that claims to measure blood glucose without piercing the skin, regardless of manufacturer or brand.

Apple isn’t one of these companies, obviously. And that’s why I find the FDA warning for the prospect of a future Apple Watch that could perform blood glucose through the skin. The agency is clearly monitoring the market for such devices. The warning will not go unobserved. Big tech companies looking to deliver such features will seek FDA guidance and authorization. 

It’s unlikely that Apple would have launched such a feature without going through the regulatory hurdles first. Measuring blood glucose in a non-invasive way, like shining a light through the skin and using an algorithm to estimate someone’s blood sugar, has to work flawlessly.

The Apple Watch routinely appears in reports that detail how the wearable had just saved someone’s life. Apple can’t afford any mistakes resulting from a diagnostic tool the FDA didn’t clear. 

That said, it’s unclear when non-invasive blood sugar readings are coming to the Apple Watch, if ever. But Apple isn’t the only company developing the feature. Recent reports also said that Samsung is working on such tech. 

It’s more likely that Apple will bring blood pressure readings to the Apple Watch, but I’m just speculating. 

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.