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‘Smart ring’ project aims to help fight chronic health problems

metabolic disease oura smart ring Oura
Data from the Oura Ring can be used for insights into managing weight and hormonal issues crucial for combating metabolic diseases
  • Fighting Middle East’s metabolic disease crisis
  • Dubai start-up joins with Oura Ring maker
  • Data will be accessible to healthcare professionals

A wearable “health ring” is being used by a Dubai-based healthcare technology startup to help combat the Middle East region’s metabolic diseases crisis.

The company, Metabolic – which brands itself as meta[bolic] – has signed a partnership with the Finnish maker of the Oura Ring, and aims to stem the billions lost in healthcare systems treating such illnesses, which include diabetes, liver disease and high cholesterol.

Ali Hashemi is co-founder and CEO of Metabolic, which focues on managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and prediabetes.

He told AGBI that the collaboration aims to fill a gap in healthcare, where crucial insights from wearable tech are often overlooked by doctors.

“There’s no way for the typical patient to derive meaningful value out of the data they are producing,” he said.

“It’s impossible today to go to your physician and say, for example, that you’ve been struggling with your weight, and [for him or her] to look at your Oura data and tell you how to improve your health.”

The Oura Ring, resembling a titanium wedding band, uses light beams and sensors to gather health data, including respiratory rate, heart rate variability, blood oxygen levels, body temperature and sleep duration.

This data, along with tracking of activity and movement, offers insights into managing weight and hormonal issues crucial for combating metabolic diseases.

The collaboration between Oura and Metabolic, Hashemi says, will help patients manage their health with continuous data monitoring to affect behavioral change.

Data will be made directly accessible to healthcare professionals, enabling them to personalise treatment plans.

The partnership will also include a research project to explore the relationship between sleep, stress, and metabolic health, using data from the Oura rings and other relevant biomarkers, including continuous glucose monitors, to measure how engagement levels and sleep behaviors affect glucose improvement.

The research findings, expected within 12 months, will serve as a comprehensive framework for tackling metabolic health issues in the region and offer insights to the scientific community, Hashemi said.

“There’s a tsunami of pre-diabetics that haven’t really been accounted for,” he warned, criticising the insurance industry’s short-term approach to patient health.

“There is a gross misalignment of incentives.” 

Almost 40 percent of UAE children are obese or overweight

The market for wearable healthcare devices, valued by the research company MarketsandMarkets at $40.7 billion in 2023, is projected to grow to nearly $70 billion by 2028.

With more than 1 million Oura Rings sold worldwide, and companies such as Samsung entering the market with its Galaxy ring, Hashemi believes the potential for wearables in healthcare is expanding, promising new interventions for metabolic diseases

Apple, maker of the Apple Watch, which tracks health metrics, is also expected to enter the ring game.

The health timebomb

(A non-communicable disease is a disease that is not transmissible directly from one person to another, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's disease)
The Middle East’s billion-dollar diabetes and obesity problem
  • The International Diabetes Federation says more than 73 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region live with the disease.
  • This number is projected to rise by 87 percent to more than 135 million by 2045, significantly affecting mortality and GDP through productivity loss and increased healthcare expenditure
  • The UAE has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the world, with one out of eight of the population estimated to have the condition.
  • Scientists from Khalifa University predict that the annual cost of managing type 2 diabetes in the UAE could reach $3.4 billion by 2031.
  • Almost 7.5 million people in the UAE expected to be overweight or obese by 2035, incurring an estimated annual cost of $12 billion, as per the World Obesity Federation.
  • The epidemic is exacerbated by lifestyle factors, including sedentary habits and poor diet, contributing to the prevalence of diabetes and other metabolic diseases
  • Almost 40 percent of children are also now obese or overweight in the UAE

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