Friday, October 17, 2008

In a Pickle

Every once in a while one of the other exercise science students offers money to anyone who will be a part of his or her research study. I like to participate in these as often as I am able for at least two reasons: 1). I get some pretty sweet moolah, and 2). I get to learn a number of nifty experimental design features and protocols that I otherwise might not have learned.

I read once that Midwesterners are most likely of any group of people in the United States to use the phrase "in a pickle". I'm not sure why that is, but after volunteering to be a subject in a study examining the gastric emptying rate of pickle juice versus water, a study designed and carried out by Kevin from Wisconsin, I came to know a little better what it means to be in a pickle.

Here's me, not fully knowing what I'm getting myself into, but giving my full consent to do it.

After being weighed, Kevin gave me a beaker of water to drink to flush my stomach of anything that might be in it. I drank it and sat for 30 minutes to let it do its work.


Periodically, 5 mL blood samples were taken throughout the test, so Kevin put a catheter into my right arm.

Then it was time to put in a 67 centimeter (2.2 feet) plastic tube up my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach. First, I had to numb up and lube my nose:

Then, Kevin gave me the most amazing wild cherry-flavored throat-numbing spray:

After focusing the chi, I was ready to insert the tube:

The most difficult part is passing the uvula area at the back of the throat. Mission: Try not to hit the gag reflex.

Glad that I had gotten past the worst part, I kept on swallowing and pushing, swallowing and pushing until the tube had reached my stomach.

Then Kevin flushed my stomach with water:

With the tube in my stomach, I then had to drink something like 7 milliliters (mL) of water for every kilogram of body weight (body mass for you real sticklers). That worked out to about 705 mL (about 3 cups). On top of that, I had to drink it all in 1 minute and 30 seconds. Since Kevin is studying the difference of the rate of exit out of the stomach between water and pickle juice, I had to complete all these steps twice. So where you read that I had to drink 705 mL of water, also realize that on another day I had to drink 705 mL of pickle juice; all in one-and-a-half minutes.

Over the next forty minutes Kevin infused phenol red into my stomach, took samples of the water (or pickle juice) from my stomach, and sampled blood from my arm, while I periodically rated my level of nausea.

Later Kevin would analyze the samples he drew from my stomach to determine how much phenol red was present (phenol red doesn't leave the stomach very quickly compared to the two test fluids), indicating the rate of exit from my stomach of either the water or pickle juice.

In total, I twice spent over an hour and a half in that dilapidated dentist's chair with a tube down my throat. All this for $40 and a greater understanding of my field of study. In the end I think it was worth it, though I would probably think twice before I did this type of study while exercising like they do at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute.

A friend of mine also wrote about this with even more pictures illustrating the process. Her account is well worth reading: Musings of a Mad Scientist.

So what do you think? Was it worth it? Would you do it for $40? After going through this and comparing these procedures with those of my thesis, I'm even more confused why we can't get enough teens to come in to only run on a treadmill. I don't even joke about needles in their presence; they've got it easy.

(Photo credits: Dave Nielson)



Good review and great pics! I was surprised to see a link to my blog post're so on top of it!! I think I'll link to yours as well if you don't mind. I don't get sick from much...but the gagging and smell of pickle juice really got me on this one.

Nate said...

Yeah, feel free to link to my post.

Kevin just called me to see if I'd do a smaller pickle-juice day tomorrow! Knowing the difficulty of recruiting subjects I said yes.

I'm beginning to question my own sanity. Perhaps I'll become a mad scientist yet.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to lie, that is looked like about the most horrible experiment ever, there is no way in gay hell I would do that for $40. Maybe $200. Maybe.

Nate said...

It wasn't the "most horrible experiment" I've ever been a part of--that would have to be the time I had to drink a solution of glycerol in water to become hyperhydrated.

I can handle poking and prodding, even putting tubes up my nose, but I struggle hacking a nasty taste.

Please, commenters, keep your comments G-rated for the kiddies.

Whitney Hardie said...

I don't know Nate. I think it's pretty terrible. That's cool that you could stomach it and help a guy out, but I wouldn't do it for $40. I hate needles, numbing spray and bile.


Yeah, I have no idea why you can't get people to come in for your project.

Nate said...

Well, I just got finished helping Kevin out for a second time, except that I wasn't much of a help because we had to abort the experiment.

I got the tube down to my stomach just fine, but when he was pushing water in and out of my stomach I kept gagging and puking. When I started to drink my 200 mL of pickle juice I couldn't hold it down. Say day.

Dan Cummings said...

I'd do it for 40 dollars, but then I don't mind needles at all (if I can watch them going in) and I put NG tubes down enough people that I should be willing to do it to myself... I don't think many people see it my way though...