Sweat, Blood and Fewer Tears: Measure Blood Non-Invasively


Many cyclists and triathletes are unaware of factors that minimise their blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity, such as the presence of dyshemoglobins in their blood. While many may measure their oxygen saturation, they are only getting part of the story. Now a performance cyclist can measure blood non-invasively.

A US company called Cercacor make a product they call Ember®. The Ember device now enables athletes and their trainers to measure blood non-invasively. Information is provided for nine parameters which include haemoglobin, oxygen saturation, oxygen content, pleth variability index, perfusion index, pulse rate, respiration rate and now carboxyhaemoglobin and methaemoglobin.

Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider George Bennett tests his blood non-invasively with Ember prior to his winning the Tour of California last year

The unique aspect is that users can now also measure and monitor the dyshemoglobins carboxyhaemoglobin and methaemoglobin. These dyshemoglobins are known to reduce the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity as they can negatively impact a cyclist’s blood’s ability to efficiently carry oxygen. No other consumer device can measure blood non-invasively to ascertain the levels of these dyshemoglobins.

Why measuring dyshemoglobins matters

Dyshemoglobins are a form of haemoglobin that cannot bind to oxygen properly. The greater the concentration of dyshemoglobins in the blood, the less oxygen that can bind to haemoglobin – and thus, less oxygen available for delivery to tissues such as muscles.

Carboxyhaemoglobin forms when carbon monoxide (CO) binds to haemoglobin. Not only does CO bind to haemoglobin at an affinity 200 times greater than oxygen, but once CO binds to a haemoglobin molecule, the haemoglobin molecule no longer properly carries oxygen. CO is caused by incomplete combustion, such as from improperly adjusted appliances that burn natural gas or other combustion fuels.

Methaemoglobin is a chemically altered type of haemoglobin that also does not carry oxygen.  It is formed when haemoglobin is exposed to certain chemicals or oxidative stress.

Factors that can increase dyshemoglobins

  • Air pollution, particularly in urban areas with heavy use of combustion engines, can increase carboxyhaemoglobin. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine concluded that carboxyhaemoglobin levels of 4-5% cause a significant reduction in maximal exercise time and can be routinely found in those athletes training in urban settings.
  • Indoor environments with space heaters using gas, oil, or kerosene can cause a rise in carboxyhaemoglobin.
  • Intense exercise causing oxidative stress can cause a rise in methaemoglobin. Recent studies have shown an increase of methaemoglobin (due to oxidative stress) in athletes one hour after cycling or running at 75% of their peak oxygen intake.
  • Food containing nitrates such as processed and cured meats can increase methaemoglobin.
  • Also drugs and pesticides can increase methaemoglobin, such as (using) Lidocaine, and Dapsone.

By knowing their carboxyhaemoglobin and methaemoglobin levels, athletes may be able to change their environment, diet, and exercise intensity to impact and improve their measurements – and thus their general well-being.

Bringing the ability to measure carboxyhaemoglobin and methaemoglobin to the athlete is a big deal,” explained Johnathan Edwards, M.D. – an anaesthesiologist, former team doctor to several pro cycling teams, and also an avid cyclist. “Anything that impacts an athlete’s ability to carry and use oxygen is crucial to endurance and performance. Being able to measure dyshemoglobins should help a lot of athletes and their trainers.

Making carboxyhaemoglobin and methaemoglobin data available to athletes is part of Cercacor’s commitment to make Ember an extremely valuable and integral element of elite athletes’ training regimen,” stated Cercacor’s Founder & CEO Joe Kiani. “This is also part of our mission to deliver innovative solutions that help people gain unique insights about themselves.

Measure Blood Non-Invasively

Here is what Ember clients can expect:

  • All new Ember Sport and Premium units sold will be shipped with an all-new mini-sensor, capable of measuring carboxyhaemoglobin and methaemoglobin.
  • All current Ember Sport customers can make an in-app purchase of the dyshemoglobin bundle for a limited time for $200. This includes a free upgrade to the new mini-sensor.
  • All current Premium Ember customers will receive the dyshemoglobin bundle, including the new mini-sensor, for a limited time upon request at no charge.

Cercacor has certainly innovated with the introduction of this non-invasive, easy-to-use monitoring technology. By helping people access key health indicators they will empower them to better understand their bodies, enhance their fitness levels and reach their full potential.


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