Thursday, June 12, 2014

Guinea Pigs

Tonight is the second Thursday in a row we're taking part in a medical-related food consumption study.

We got accepted to the program about a month ago after seeing a sign on campus and applying.
The draw was the subject (it's food/health related) and the money.
Mostly, the money.
It pays half of the amount we make at work in a month; it's basically paying for the trip to Toronto next week (a combination Tweetup/anniversary celebration/summer vacation trip). Couldn't really pass it up.

After the initial meet which involves a blood draw after 12 hours of fasting, and a second two hour meeting (following another 12 hour fasting) which measures body composition (how much fat versus muscle your body is made up of) using a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) machine and then a test to determine RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), which is basically the base amount of calories your body needs to function. That involves putting a big space-helmet-like hood over your head for about 45 minutes while you lay very still and it collects your exhaled breath and analyses it.
It's kinda weird.

It's all very interesting to someone who loves learning new things. Hopefully they release both of the results after the study is over. That kind of information would be really empowering to someone with a lifetime of battling weight issues.

The study requires the subject to not be on medication (we're four years clean this month!), not be on birth control (no problem there!), and be free of health conditions (such as high blood pressure and low blood sugar/diabetes) - on that front we're as healthy as a horse.

The study also includes staying three separate nights at their facility, at least a week apart. Before each stay the test subject (that's us!) is required to record everything consumed for the three days prior. EVERYTHING. All foods and coffee, water, alcohol too. It gets recorded using a program and then it spits out detailed calorie information for the day. It's quit interesting, not really being too much of a calorie counter when it comes to a whole day of eating, only individual items and recipes, (we were studying human nutritional science at one point in time) to find out how few calories, on average, we actually consume in a day. Also interesting, it became apparent that 25-30% of calories a day is from alcohol. That's not very good.

1200 calories of food.
Once checked into the facility they provide a meal. It's the same menu and amount every time (it's also three times the calories we generally consume for dinner, so we don't finish it all and some of it we don't even eat) and has to be consumed by 7 pm. After 7 pm there is no food aloud, only water.

The room.
Each room is private, with a TV, a bed (that's more like a flat rock with bedding, sadly) and a shared bathroom (but there's never a full house). There's a pool table, and a big commons area with big comfy couches and a large television with cable - plus free wireless (which is terribly slow and glitchy). But it's comfortable, and has air conditioning (which we don't have at home). We don't have to cook, or clean, or talk to anybody...just hang out. It's kind of like a mini vacation.

Six am starts the day, with a half an hour for showering and...stuff...
Then they insert the arterial catheter into the inner elbow and there it stays for over four hours while they periodically draw blood following the consumption of breakfast (which is sickly sweet strawberry Greek yogurt). They leave us in a small room with a monitor, which provides questions after each blood draw, and provide water as much as requested (though however much water you drink during the first of the three sessions is how much you'll be allowed the final two sessions).
Other than that it's a good time to catch up on reading, or watching Netflix - last week we watched 'Butter' and 'The Best and the Brightest' (both hilarious movies, by the way).

At about 11:30 am they take out the catheter and bring lunch and place it on a scale that looks like a giant mouse pad so they measure how much you eat, and likely how fast you eat it. They say to eat as much as you like until full/satisfied. It's a GIANT glass casserole dish, and it's chicken (clearly canned), cream of mushroom soup (clearly from a can), and egg noodles with some hint of some sort of cheese product (could be Velveeta?). It's atrocious [but the first few bites are delicious if hungry enough]...and unlike dinner where everything is labeled with the calorie content, this is just screaming death into a calorie abyss (egg noodles are severely high in calories, not to mention cream of mushroom soup...and whatever that cheese is).

After that they send you home. This is where the request for coffee comes in, because until then it's not allowed.

It might sound weird to do such a thing like take part in medical-related studies, but since we're not allowed to donate blood, or take part in medication testing (which, is probably for the better), this is an easy and interesting way to earn some extra cash through the summer. It's been a good learning experience. After tonight we have one more stay to go before the big "pay out".

If you ever need some extra cash, search local government and private organizations that do various types of studies and check out if they're "hiring" guinea pigs. You never know what you might learn.

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