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Children's Nutrition Research Center

Houston, Texas

Children's Nutrition Research Center - CNRC
USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center
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Study Volunteer FAQs

Happy toddlerQ: What types of research studies are conducted at the CNRC?

A: The Children's Nutrition Research Center researchers test theories about nutrition and health that may lead to important changes in the dietary recommendations for millions of Americans.

A common type of study involving volunteers is called a "balance study," which determines how much of specific nutrients are absorbed from the diet and utilized by the body. Researchers use this information to learn how gender, age and genetic differences influence nutrient needs.

Current areas of research at the CNRC include: the nutritional needs of mother and child during pregnancy and lactation, childhood eating behaviors, the absorption and metabolism of essential minerals, the regulation of energy balance and body composition, the metabolism of energy fuels (fat, protein and carbohydrates), and nutrition during critical periods of development. Some CNRC researchers are also investigating the role of nutrition in the development of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and diabetes.

Q: Are only children needed for these studies?

A: Although most of the clinical research at the CNRC involves children of various ages, there are studies that also need parental involvement or entire families to volunteer.

In fact, since the Center opened in October, 1978, 13,000 Houston-area families, including infants, toddlers, boys and girls of all ages, pregnant and lactating females, grandmothers, moms, and dads have individually completed more than 11,300 CNRC studies.

Q: What type of time commitment do studies require?

A: The length of each study depends on the research protocol, or plan. Some studies are conducted at home, while others take only single visit for a few hours. Others follow volunteers over a period of several years and might require several overnight stays. Most studies fall somewhere in between. Time and other requirements of specific studies are always explained to potential volunteers and/or their parents before they enroll. 


Q: What types of testing do studies involve?

A: The type of tests varies with each study protocol, or plan. Some might involve only body measurements that take a few hours, while others might involve an overnight stay and could require a small amount of blood work. The specific tests required by a study are explained to volunteers before they enroll.

Q: Where is the CNRC?

A: The CNRC is located at 1100 Bates Street in the Texas Medical Center, Houston, Texas. The center is on the south end of the Texas Medical Center, one block east of Fannin Street and one block north of Holcombe Boulevard.

Free parking is available to all volunteers in the CNRC parking garage. In some cases, the CNRC can provide transportation. Detailed driving directions

Q: Are the accommodations comfortable?

A: Most volunteers involved in studies requiring an overnight stay spend the night in the Metabolic Research Unit at the CNRC. The accommodations are comfortable and inviting with private rooms and baths, television, telephone, and internet connection. Access to the research areas is strictly controlled and children must be chaperoned by a parent at all times. Medical personnel are on call 24 hours a day.

Q: Are meals provided?

A: A few study protocols require that the CNRC provide all the food that volunteers eat, both at the center and at home. But most of the studies only require food to be provided while volunteers are at the CNRC.

A registered dietitian plans the meals served at the CNRC in consultation with the study's primary investigator. Meals are well-balanced, meet the nutritional needs of the volunteer and take personal preferences into consideration.

Q: May I eat meals with my children at the CNRC?

A: CNRC study coordinators are always happy to assist parents who wish to eat meals with their children involved in studies. Parents are generally offered larger portions of the same meals served to their children.

The CNRC kitchen closes at 6 p.m. So, parents planning to arrive at a later time should ask their child's study coordinator to have a cold meal or plate of the evening's hot meal set aside for them.

Q: Are there benefits to being a volunteer?

A: The knowledge CNRC researchers obtain through volunteer-based clinical studies can impact the nutritional well-being of children and adults for generations to come.

On a personal level, volunteering for nutritional studies gives area residents an opportunity to learn more about their nutrition needs and how their body works.
Volunteers are generally offered a stipend or gift for participation in studies.

Q: How do we learn more?

A: Those interested in volunteering for studies at the CNRC are urged to call our volunteer hotline at 713-798-7002.

After an initial telephone screening, those who are interested and meet the study requirements will be asked to visit the CNRC. At that time the study's coordinator will provide a full explanation of the study objectives and requirements. Some initial tests may also be performed and you will be asked to sign an informed consent form.

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