We’re hard at work recruiting one thousand participants across the US for PREDICT 2 – our at-home study designed to discover personal nutritional responses.
Everyone who takes part has the opportunity to contribute to science and get insights about the right foods to optimize their health and metabolism.
Once someone is accepted into the study and has gone through our informed consent process, we ship them a large brown box containing everything they need to get started on their 11-day personal nutrition adventure. Check out our Instagram post to get an idea of the size.
We’ll be looking in more depth at what happens throughout the study in a future post. But for now, let’s open this box of scientific delights and see what’s inside.
First of all, there’s a booklet packed with useful information about the study. We also have a helpful phone app that guides participants through every step, and our nutritionists are available seven days a week to provide advice and support through messaging or on the phone.
Muffins and more
Next on the list is a selection of our famous muffins. There are 18 in total, each containing precise amounts of fat, protein, carbohydrates and calories, designed to be eaten at specific times throughout the study.
We also provide chocolate powder, which participants mix up with skim milk to create tasty shakes to wash their muffins down. And there are also a couple of super-sweet glucose drinks that are used to test blood sugar responses.
Biological sample collection
Our study participants have to gather a few crucial samples which they send back to us for analysis. Some of it may sound a little bit gross, but that’s biology for you…
First, there’s a simple ‘spit kit’ – a plastic tube that they fill with saliva on the day before they start the study. We purify DNA from the cells in the sample and analyze the participant’s genetic make-up by looking for variations in certain key genes that have been linked to metabolism and weight.
We also ask participants to collect a poop sample on day zero, so that we can look at the diversity of bacteria in their gut microbiome.
Blood fat and sugar monitoring
Continuing on the theme of biological fluids, the next items are all about measuring what’s going on in people’s blood during the study.
We provide test kits for participants to collect blood during days one and three of the study at specific times after eating the test muffins. They prick their finger and drop a few spots of blood onto a card that they return to us. We use the cards to measure fat and other important molecules in their blood.
We also include a continuous blood sugar monitor, also known as a continuous glucose monitor or CGM. These clever gadgets were originally developed for people with diabetes to regularly measure their blood sugar levels, and they’re the perfect thing for our studies.
The kit consists of a stick-on monitor that’s about the size of a quarter, along with an electronic reader. Participants put the monitor on their upper arm before they start the study and it remains there until day eleven. We also provide a big, waterproof sticking plaster to make sure it stays put.
The CGM provides a continuous readout of how their blood sugar levels are changing throughout the study as they eat and drink, giving us an insight into how their body processes and responds to food.
Probably the most recognizable device in the box is our motion tracker, which monitors the participant’s activity and sleep. Like the blood sugar monitor, they wear this throughout the study and then return it to us, so we can check out how their activity affects their metabolism.
It’s crucial that participants log their meals accurately so that we can match up different foods to nutritional responses. Participants are asked to precisely weigh and photograph everything they eat and drink – something we try to make as easy as possible by including a weighing scale in the study box.
Participants will also find a measuring tape in their study box, but it’s not for measuring food. It’s there so that participants can send us their body measurements, including their waist and hip circumference, so that we can understand more about the connection between physical makeup and responses to food.
Quest test kit
At the end of the study, each participant visits a nearby Quest Diagnostics Center to provide a blood sample after fasting overnight. The kit contains everything that’s need to collect and ship the sample, which we use to measure the levels of sugar, fats, and other health markers in their blood.
Participants need to return their samples and devices to us in pre-paid shipping cartons, with specific boxes and instructions for each item that needs to be sent back.
It’s essential that each sample and device is packed properly so we can extract all the valuable data. And we also need to make sure that the biological materials are safe and secure – nobody wants to get a stray poop sample in the mail!
It all adds up to a better understanding of personal nutritional responses
We have carefully selected every item in the study kit to make the process as easy as possible for participants while allowing us to collect lots of accurate data and enhance our understanding of personal nutritional responses.
Once the study is over, we crunch the data from each kit and device so participants can learn about their responses to food. Then we combine their data with everyone else’s and use it to build a tool that accurately predicts responses to food, so you can eat with confidence.
Sign up to our early access mailing list to be the first to know how you can find the foods your body loves.
Content on this blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence. This means you’re free to reproduce it without any changes as long as you attribute ZOE and link back to the original post, but you can’t charge people to read it.