A Day in the Life at INTA

This summer (or Chile’s winter), I am working at INTA, el Instituto de Nutrición y Tecnología de los Alimentos in Santiago, Chile.

7:00 AM: The goal time to wake up (aka when my alarm goes off)

7:30 AM: The real time when I wake up…

8:00 AM: I walk to the bus stop and wait for my bus to work. This can be a long wait sometimes because there is no set bus schedule, and sometimes 4 of the same bus (which does not take me to work) will pass before my bus passes.

9:00 AM: I arrive at INTA!


Bienvenida a INTA, Universidad de Chile

All morning: On Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, cohort participants, now in the young adult wave, come in for their examinations and interviews. These participants have been part of the study since they were infants! Originally focusing on iron-deficiency anemia, the study has now expanded to include many different projects, including the project on cardiovascular risk that I am a part of. These 22 year olds have been examined during infancy, age 5, 10, and 16! It’s impressive to me to that they have remained in the study for so long, what a beautifully small attrition rate.

Bienvenida a INTA, Universidad de Chile

The participants get the follow examinations (our data collection):

1.  Anthropometric and blood pressure measures with Dr. Burrows, my advisor at INTA. She has a simple set up with a scale, tape measures, and a sturdy blood pressure monitor.

2. Blood samples, to measure a host of blood and metabolic levels.Liver ultrasound with Professor Gladys, an impeccable woman who is always dressed to the nines with matching earrings and scarves.

Bienvenida a INTA, Universidad de Chile

3. Liver ultrasound with Professor Gladys, an impeccable woman who is always dressed to the nines with matching earrings and scarves.

Bienvenida a INTA, Universidad de Chile

4. Densitometria (DEXA), which measures their bone density and fat/lean mass. They are scanned in an MRI-like machine.

5. Interviews and surveys with Carmen Gloria and Paulina. Carmen Gloria and Paulina take each participant to the cafeteria for breakfast and ask them questions from the surveys (about family history, diet, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol, education).

Bienvenida a INTA, Universidad de Chile

6. A 24-hour food recall with Tamara. She has a huge binder with images of all types of foods and different portion sizes. They also get 2 more 24-hour recall forms to fill out on a weekday and weekend. Then, they text these forms to Tamara by Whatsapp.

7. We just started a new part of the study called comer sin hambre (eating without hunger). In this portion, the participants are given a huge breakfast (triple sandwich with ham and cheese, milk, juice, coffee, fruits, etc.) to eat. When they are sin hambre, they are told to wait 20 minutes before they join Tamara in a room of temptation, a room filled with snacks, chips, peanuts, candies, soda – hence, the temptation. Of course, Tamara is “just working” on something else, and they can eat whatever they want as they wait (unknowingly while being monitored). These are kids who have all reported being SUPER FULL from breakfast, yet some of them still eat!

Super Ocho, Chilean kit-kat that awaits in the room of temptation

All afternoon: The rest of the day, I work on my own data analysis and data entry. It’s easy to get lost in the data, so completely absorbed in SPSS that I even forget to go to the bathroom or grab a cup of tea to drink. But having observed the data collection with the cohort, I have a better understanding of the study and where all the data comes from. It’s not just numbers to me anymore!

Bienvenida a INTA, Universidad de Chile


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