PREDICT 2 Study Experience: Reflecting on Recruitment

On June 10, 2019, I read a New York Times article that immediately drew my attention and inspired me to take the first step of my personal nutrition journey. Authors Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley were writing about a new nutrition company called ZOE and a series of studies ZOE was sponsoring to investigate individual responses to food, appropriately called “PREDICT.”

Graber and Twilley began by describing the growing interest in the DNA testing industry, as individuals continue to become increasingly invested in how their unique genetic information affects their health choices and physiological responses. They transitioned into talking about the impact of genetics versus lifestyle choices on diet-related health conditions like obesity. This is when the Tim Spector story came into play; the authors discussed his complex experience with twin studies and how that transformed into the studies we now know as PREDICT and the founding of ZOE. 

The article was published just hours after Tim Spector and his team presented the first findings from PREDICT 1 at the American Society for Nutrition’s annual conference. The authors briefly described the participant experience from PREDICT 1, and they mentioned that Tim Spector was actively recruiting for a second study in the U.S. If I wasn’t already enthralled at this point, I guarantee that after reading about PREDICT 2, I snapped to attention. 

I’ve participated in studies before (read more), but it was more about the cash and less about the personal interest (although the personal interest was definitely a factor in my motivation to complete the studies). Like I mentioned in past blogs, I was not paid for my participation in PREDICT 2. I was, however, given the opportunity to experience the scientific process in its rawest form, and to hopefully receive meaningful results afterward. Immediately after reading the New York Times article in its entirety, I filled out an initial screening questionnaire for PREDICT 2 online.

After submitting the questionnaire, I received an email from the PREDICT 2 team stating they would review my information and let me know if I qualified for the study. Two hours later, I got another email that said I was eligible to proceed with the recruitment process. I clicked a link to take an additional screening questionnaire, which described the details of the study process – what the researchers were looking for and how they planned to gather the right data. Four days after completing this questionnaire, an email from the study team let me know I was eligible to take part in the study. 

Thus began the Informed Consent process. I was instructed to read the Informed Consent form carefully, a document that explained what I would do as a study participant, described what the researchers would do with my data, and included many disclaimers about what I was agreeing to when I signed on to participate in the study. After reading the form, the next step was to schedule a call with a member of the study team. To ensure I took ample time to read and comprehend the content of the Informed Consent form, I couldn’t schedule the call for less than 24 hours after receiving the form (I thought this was interesting). I got the Informed Consent form on a Friday, and I scheduled my call for the following Wednesday.

On the phone call, the study team member told me more about the study, answered questions, and helped me schedule when I would begin the study. Originally I was going to begin the study at the end of July/beginning of August, but I ended up postponing until September as I would be traveling for work frequently in August. After the call, I signed the Informed Consent form. 

Later I got an email prompting me to download the study app and the data within the app needed for participating in the study. After that, all of my communication with the study team would be through the study app. A few days later, I got my study pack in the mail, and the rest is history.

Throughout the recruitment process, the study team emphasized in our correspondence the value of “contributing to ground-breaking science that can help improve our understanding of human biology for everyone.” They also, of course, add that if you complete the study successfully, you will eventually receive “non-clinical results” with information on how you uniquely respond physiologically to different types of food and how that can be applied to making positive, healthy lifestyle changes.

The organized and streamlined recruitment process I experienced before participating in the PREDICT 2 study gave me confidence going into the study that I was signing up for a legitimate experience. I found out about PREDICT 2 from reading the New York Times article, and according to one of the study team members who I chatted with on the study app, most participants found PREDICT 2 through the media, particularly the Gastropod podcast episode I mentioned a few days ago (link here). I’m glad I read that New York Times article, and I’m grateful for everything I learned during the study and the support I’ve received from ZOE.

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