It’s a wrap

Quick recap: I enrolled in a 12-week study to test whether sesame oil could reduce risks for cardiovascular problems. I got off to a rocky start at my first visit because I was dehydrated and I couldn’t produce enough blood for the samples needed. So I restarted a few days later, but I had earned a reputation for my stingy veins. Because of this, I was pampered at study visits that required a blood draw – very few visits – and got to lie down and enjoy the warmth of a heating pad on my arm.

By the end of the 12 weeks, I admit I was not sad to stop taking the study supplement – which may or may not have been actual sesame oil. I never knew, and probably never will know, whether I was taking the active ingredient or a placebo. Taking the oil was not a big deal, but it did require a bit of discipline. When my research participation ended, I could cross one daily task off of my list.

The last visit required a final blood draw, which held many of the clues about whether my risk for cardiovascular disease had changed in a negative or positive way as a result of adding this particular oil to my diet. The study nurses also recorded my weight, which is another factor influencing one’s risk for heart problems and other circulatory issues.


Interestingly, I learned that my hemoglobin a1c (HbA1c) was a tad higher at the end of the 12 weeks than it was when I joined the study. This is a measure of the glucose (sugar) level in the blood over the previous three months, and is an important lab test for people with diabetes.

My HbA1c was not high enough to signal that I was at risk for diabetes, but it did go up – generally considered the wrong direction! This tidbit led me to suspect I was in the placebo group of the study. Either that or sesame oil supplementation – at least for me – did not lower that single risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Chances are I will never know for sure, but I do hope that someday I will be able to read a journal article about the outcome of this study. Only through blinded, randomized nutrition clinical trials like this can we learn about safe and effective ways to participate in improving our own health.

I hope I adequately conveyed to the nurses and other staff at the clinical research center my thanks for their excellent care, and that I acknowledged their clear appreciation for the research participants they see every day. We are a rare breed, after all, and more of us are needed all the time. I am still enrolled with ResearchMatch, and am up for a new study whenever the right one comes along.

What about you? I encourage you to give research participation a try.

Emily Caldwell science writer and co-editor

Read more posts from Emily


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Categories: The Participant's Point of View

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