Being a research subject

Working in the medical centre on the study day

Last week I was not the researcher, but the research subject in a nutrition study at my current university. The goal of the study is to improve the knowledge of how flavonoids (bioactive compounds that are present in plant derived foods) are absorbed into the body. To investigate this it is important that the research subject (me) doesn’t eat food rich in flavonoids for five days. On day four you get a breakfast rich in flavonoids and then they look at their uptake in your body by monitoring your blood and urine. Food that is rich in flavonoids: vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, whole grain products, chocolate, coffee, tea. Those are products that I eat a lot, so I knew that this was going to be a challenge. Keep on reading for my experiences per day!

Day 1: Saturday

I am badly prepared for my new diet, almost everything in my fridge is not allowed for this diet. Luckily I find some eggs and cheese for breakfast. I also realize that I can eat pancakes, and I love pancakes! So that is my lunch. I miss my cup of coffee a lot this morning. I had a party yesterday and could use a cup of coffee. The rest of the day I am noticing how little color my food contains during this diet. It look boring, and taste that way too. Some vegetables and herbs would make this so much nicer!

Day 2: Sunday

Pancakes with bacon for breakfast and lunch, the variety is stunning ;-). The rest of the day I also live on colorless food. I feel a little drowsy, but since it is sunday I don’t care too much.

De gestandaardiseerde maaltijd die ik drie avonden moet eten, juk!

The standardized meal that I ate for three dinner, bleh!

Day 3: Monday

Today is the first day I need to collect my urine. I am walking around with a little backpack containing my urine all day, very charming. I try to sneak my backpack into the bathrooms at work without anybody noticing. Luckily I more or less succeed. I am disliking my diet more and more, it is just so boring! The most difficult part is not drinking coffee. I have a headache, have trouble concentrating and am cranky. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms. I am happy when my working day is over and try to make sure that I am home at a decent hour. This because I also have to collect a stool sample today. I will spare you the details, but it was an experience. Luckily I only have to do this once. Tonight is also the first night I have to eat a standardized meal: macaroni and cheese with a bread role and golden syrup pudding. I have to eat this meal for dinner three times. I don’t like it, but it fills me up.

Het al half opgegeten studie ontbijt. Ik moest 10 uur vasten van te voren dus had te veel honger om meteen een foto te maken ;-)

The half eaten study breakfast. I had to be fastened for 10 hours before, so I was too hungry to first take a picture ;-)

Day 4: Tuesday

The study day in the medical centre! I am there at 8am to hand in my urine and stool sample. After some measurements I receive my flavonoids breakfast: chocolate and a juice made from oranges and blackberries. It tastes good! During the day they measure my blood pressure multiple times and take blood samples every few hours. In the mean time I can get some work done on my laptop. I work surprisingly productive when I am locked in a room all day. At 4pm my day in the medical centre is finished and I continue working for a few hours at my normal desk. At home I eat my standardized meal again and at night I go to the Pubquiz. This is the first pubquiz that I do while drinking a glass of water (beer is not allowed).

Door deze constructie hoefde ze niet iedere keer opnieuw te prikken als ze bloed nodig hadden, ideaal!

Because of this they could take my blood without putting a needle in me every time.

Day 5: Wednesday

I start my day fastened at the medical centre again to give blood and hand in my urine of the evening before. I am very happy that today is my last day on this diet. It is also the last day I have to collect my urine. I am so looking forward to peeing without my little backpack!

Day 6: Thursday

In the morning I hand in my last urine and then it is FINISHED! I receive a lovely breakfast containing a lot of fruit and run to the closest coffee corner for a cappuccino. Love it! I lunch in the campus kitchen with three different salads and more coffee. I missed this.

My conclusion

Being a research subject in nutritional research has a lot more influence on my daily life than I anticipated. And I am way more addicted to caffeine than I thought. That is not going to change, I am already enjoying my cups of coffee again. I gained a lot more respect for subjects in nutritional research. If one day I will be the researcher in a human nutrition trail, I will now at least understand what the participants are going through.

Is there anybody among my readers who has ever been a subject in nutritional research? I would love to hear your experiences.  

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