Volunteers needed for metabolism test

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 2, 2009

By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó Ten men willing to live for four days in a sophisticated testing chamber at the N.C. Research Campus will earn $400 and help answer a long-debated question.
Does exercise boost your metabolism throughout the day, or just while you sweat?
The Appalachian State University Human Performance Lab and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute, both in Kannapolis, will launch the unique study next week.
“It’s the first study ever in a metabolic chamber to determine the long-term affect of a 45-minute exercise bout on metabolism,” said Dr. David Nieman, director of the ASU Human Performance Lab.
Nieman needs 10 healthy male subjects and five alternates, ages 20 to 35, to eat, sleep and exercise in the state-of-the-art $750,000 metabolic chamber at the Nutrition Research Institute.
The metabolic chamber, one of 11 in the country, looks like a tiny hotel room and measures metabolism over 24 hours to within 40 calories.
Subjects will live separately for four nonconsecutive days in the chamber, which includes a bed, bathroom, computer with high-speed internet and DVD player.
Testing starts Sept. 21 and ends Dec. 3.
Subjects who complete the study will earn $400. Before they enter the chamber, all subjects will have extensive free fitness testing done at the Research Campus, including a DEXA body composition scan and VO2 max test.
Fitness testing starts next week.
“The metabolic chamber is a fantastic resource, and this is an opportunity for people to learn about their own metabolism,” said Dr. Karen Corbin, clinical coordinator for the Nutrition Research Institute.
ASU and UNC will use the study for different reasons.
For the first two days of a subject’s stay, UNC will calibrate and validate the new chamber.
During the last two days, ASU will collect data to determine what happens to metabolism hours after exercise.
Subjects will only exercise during their last day in the chamber, taking a 45-minute spin on a stationary bike at a moderate-to-vigorous pace.
Some scientists believe metabolism returns to normal soon after exercise.
“Others claim there is a sustained low-level increase for the rest of the day,” Nieman said.
The study should help scientists better understand metabolism, one of the main objectives at the Research Campus, which was founded by billionaire and Dole Food Co. owner David Murdock.
The study also offers the Nutrition Research Institute the chance to test its new metabolic kitchen, where Corbin will prepare all meals.
Subjects will eat three meals a day of precise caloric levels and nutrient composition so researchers know exactly what has been consumed.
And they must clean their plates. Leftovers will be served again with the next meal.
If ASU had to buy and prepare food and rent 40 days in a metabolic chamber, it would cost about $40,000, Nieman said.
“The huge expense is food and the facility, with all of the measurements,” he said. “UNC is carrying those costs because of our collaboration to get it validated.”
Nieman is contributing about $20,000 in grant money to cover stipends and hiring staff to monitor the chamber at night.
Trained observers will monitor the chamber around the clock, although a curtain inside the room provides some privacy.
The study is a huge undertaking for researchers in Kannapolis, and they are excited, Corbin said.
“Everyone wants it to work,” she said. “This is what the Research Campus is all about.”
Nieman expects to have results from the research in early 2010. ASU and UNC will co-publish the findings.
Subjects can’t smoke or take any herbal or nutrient supplements throughout the 10-week study. They will spend most of their time in the chamber resting or sleeping, except for 45 minutes of exercise on the last day.
Chris Parchmann, one of Nieman’s graduate students at ASU’s main campus in Boone, has already signed up.
Preparing for a career in exercise science research, Parchmann said he wanted to experience a study from the subject’s point of view.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said.
His only concern is missing classes, so Parchmann said he will spend most of his time in the chamber studying.
Those interested in participating should send an e-mail to ASU-NCRC@appstate.edu. Slots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.