Data-driven modeling and prediction of blood glucose dynamics: Machine learning applications in type 1 diabetes

Ashenafi Zebene Woldaregay, Eirik Årsand, Ståle Walderhaug, David Albers, Lena Mamykina, Taxiarchis Botsis, Gunnar Hartvigsen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic disorder that causes abnormal blood glucose (BG) regulation that might result in short and long-term health complications and even death if not properly managed. Currently, there is no cure for diabetes. However, self-management of the disease, especially keeping BG in the recommended range, is central to the treatment. This includes actively tracking BG levels and managing physical activity, diet, and insulin intake. The recent advancements in diabetes technologies and self-management applications have made it easier for patients to have more access to relevant data. In this regard, the development of an artificial pancreas (a closed-loop system), personalized decision systems, and BG event alarms are becoming more apparent than ever. Techniques such as predicting BG (modeling of a personalized profile), and modeling BG dynamics are central to the development of these diabetes management technologies. The increased availability of sufficient patient historical data has paved the way for the introduction of machine learning and its application for intelligent and improved systems for diabetes management. The capability of machine learning to solve complex tasks with dynamic environment and knowledge has contributed to its success in diabetes research. Motivation: Recently, machine learning and data mining have become popular, with their expanding application in diabetes research and within BG prediction services in particular. Despite the increasing and expanding popularity of machine learning applications in BG prediction services, updated reviews that map and materialize the current trends in modeling options and strategies are lacking within the context of BG prediction (modeling of personalized profile) in type 1 diabetes. Objective: The objective of this review is to develop a compact guide regarding modeling options and strategies of machine learning and a hybrid system focusing on the prediction of BG dynamics in type 1 diabetes. The review covers machine learning approaches pertinent to the controller of an artificial pancreas (closed-loop systems), modeling of personalized profiles, personalized decision support systems, and BG alarm event applications. Generally, the review will identify, assess, analyze, and discuss the current trends of machine learning applications within these contexts. Method: A rigorous literature review was conducted between August 2017 and February 2018 through various online databases, including Google Scholar, PubMed, ScienceDirect, and others. Additionally, peer-reviewed journals and articles were considered. Relevant studies were first identified by reviewing the title, keywords, and abstracts as preliminary filters with our selection criteria, and then we reviewed the full texts of the articles that were found relevant. Information from the selected literature was extracted based on predefined categories, which were based on previous research and further elaborated through brainstorming among the authors. Results: The initial search was done by analyzing the title, abstract, and keywords. A total of 624 papers were retrieved from DBLP Computer Science (25), Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics (31), Google Scholar (193), IEEE (267), Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology (31), PubMed/Medline (27), and ScienceDirect (50). After removing duplicates from the list, 417 records remained. Then, we independently assessed and screened the articles based on the inclusion and exclusion criteria, which eliminated another 204 papers, leaving 213 relevant papers. After a full-text assessment, 55 articles were left, which were critically analyzed. The inter-rater agreement was measured using a Cohen Kappa test, and disagreements were resolved through discussion. Conclusion: Due to the complexity of BG dynamics, it remains difficult to achieve a universal model that produces an accurate prediction in every circumstance (i.e., hypo/eu/hyperglycemia events). Recently, machine learning techniques have received wider attention and increased popularity in diabetes research in general and BG prediction in particular, coupled with the ever-growing availability of a self-collected health data. The state-of-the-art demonstrates that various machine learning techniques have been tested to predict BG, such as recurrent neural networks, feed-forward neural networks, support vector machines, self-organizing maps, the Gaussian process, genetic algorithm and programs, deep neural networks, and others, using various group of input parameters and training algorithms. The main limitation of the current approaches is the lack of a well-defined approach to estimate carbohydrate intake, which is mainly done manually by individual users and is prone to an error that can severely affect the predictive performance. Moreover, a universal approach has not been established to estimate and quantify the approximate effect of physical activities, stress, and infections on the BG level. No researchers have assessed model predictive performance during stress and infection incidences in a free-living condition, which should be considered in future studies. Furthermore, a little has been done regarding model portability that can capture inter- and intra-variability among patients. It seems that the effect of time lags between the CGM readings and the actual BG levels is not well covered. However, in general, we foresee that these developments might foster the advancement of next-generation BG prediction algorithms, which will make a great contribution in the effort to develop the long–awaited, so-called artificial pancreas (a closed-loop system).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-134
Number of pages26
JournalArtificial intelligence in medicine
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Blood glucose dynamics
  • Blood glucose level prediction
  • Machine learning
  • Type 1 diabetes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Artificial Intelligence


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