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Metabolism & Nutrition – Eatmeter

One of the tutorials for the RuG Metabolism & Nutrition course involves keeping a food log for at least 5 days. During the introductory lecture today, we were told to use the “My diary” (NL: Mijn dagboek) function offered by the Dutch Voedingscentrum.

The diary data can be exported for use in a spreadsheet, which I have to do to calculate my mean food intake over the five days. This data then has to be submitted to before 9:00 on March 26. [Which I just did this file, as per March 25.]

Metabolism & Nutrition – Lecture 1: Introduction

Janine Kruit, as the coordinator of the RuG Metabolism & Nutrition course, delivered the introductory lecture today, a day late, because she was too sick to teach yesterday. The altered course schedule is now available on the course’s Nestor environment [Blackboard].

The gist of the course is how nutrition, by affecting metabolism, can contribute to or substract from our health, i.e. nutrition → metabolism → health. The subject matter is broken down into the following topics/lectures:

  • energy metabolism [Lecture 2];
  • fat/carbohydrate/protein metabolism [Lecture 3/4/6]; and
  • metabolic regulation [Lecture 5].
  • Lecture 7 integrates the topics of the previous lectures.

After the lectures are finished on Thursday, the following tutorials are planned for group C (my group), with those that are obligatory for me in bold:

Tutorial schedule for Group C.

Date Time Room Subject Lecturer
Tutorial 1 Fri, March 20 13:00–15:00 3211.0125 Caloric restriction Kathrin Thedieck
Tutorial 2 Mon, March 23 10:00–12:00 3211.0125 Cardiovascular disease Uwe Tietge
Tutorial 3 Tue, March 24 10:00–12:00 3211.0125 Nutrition & epigenetics Torsten Plosch
Tutorial 4 Wed, March 25 09:00–11:00 3211.0125 Nutrition & microbiota Hermie Harmsen
Tutorial 5 Thu, March 26 11:00–13:00 3211.0125 Diet Maaike Oosterveer
Tutorial 6 Fri, March 27 11:00–13:00 3111.0017A Metabolic regulation Hans Jonkers
Tutorial 7 Tue, March 31 09:00–11:00 3111.0217 Eatmeter

Nutrients and nutrition

Besides some housekeeping details and a general overview of the course, in this introductory lecture, Janine also ran through some of the basics of nutrition and nutrient breakdown.

Nutrients are divided in

  • macronutrients, which include fats, proteins, and carbohydrates (incl. fibers); and
  • micronutrients: vitamins, minerals, dietary elements (sporenelementen), and bioactives (phytochemicals).

Nutrients are necessary to support energy metabolism, cell synthesis, optimalisation and cellulair repair.
Macronutrients can be classified based on whether they are essential as fuel and/or as substrate for cell synthesis.

Essential and non-essential macronutrients.

Nutrient Essential Not essential
Fats W3/w6 PUFA Energy source
Proteins Amino acids Amino acids
Energy source
Carbohydrates * Energy source

* [Janine leaves this empty, but, of course, carbohydrates are required as a glucose source, at least for the brain and red blood cells.]


Most nutrient absorption takes place in the small intestine. Proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals can be absorbed with or without prior digestion by the enzymes and salts present in bile acid. Undigested food stuffs get passed to the large intestine, where fermentation take makes available even more nutrients.

Digestion enzymes

  • Carbohydrates are split into monosaccharides by amylase, maltase, sucrase, and lactase. [More in a later lecture on carbohydrate metabolism.]
  • Proteins are split into peptides and amino acids by endopeptidases and exopeptidases. [More in the protein metabolism lecture.]
  • Fats are split into free fatty acids and monoglycerides by lipases.

Bile salts

Digestion of fats in the small intestine is aided by bile acid, which contains bile salts (Dutch: galzouten). Bile salts are amphiphilic, meaning that they are simultaneously lipophilic and hydrophilic.

Metabolism & Nutrition – Editorial on metabolic regulation

For the 2015 RuG Metabolism & Nutrition course, 25% of the final grade is determined by an editorial I have to write with 3 other students. Scratch that; one of them is no longer enrolled. Good for me! The less, the merrier! The remaining two students in group C with the same subject—metabolic regulation—are: Jesse E. Kuindersma and Vera E. Otten. Based on the editorial, we also have to prepare a presentation.

Janine Kruit explained today that the editorial has to be in the style typical of scientific editorials that promote a scientific article. So, it might be a good idea to look at a few published editorials for inspiration. One important feature she mentioned is that the editorial has to be positive about the study. Of course, the results can be negative, such as in [my example]: “dieting does not lead to long term weight loss”. She did suggest putting a positive spin on results such as these; e.g.: “There’s no need to force yourself to stick to some diet; dieting doesn’t work anyway.” 😉

The editoral has to be 800–1000 words long and is meant to highlight the most important results from a study and place them in a broader context that is applicable to the audience. The audience are the co-enrolled students who will witness the presentation and who will be able to access the editorial through the course’s Nestor environment.

One schematic illustration (of some metabolic pathway) is expected to accompany the text of the editoral. I’m guessing the presentation may contain more figures.

The presenation should take ± 20 minutes. Before the presentation, a concept-editoral has to be handed in by our group. Our presenation will be on Friday, March 27, sometime between 11:00–13:00, during the tutorial [Tutorial 6] in room 3111.0017A.

Update March 31: We just handed in the finished editorial.

My zeroth year at university

Maybe my biggest accomplishment to date—maybe my only real accomplishment, if your glasses are so colored by society’s standards—has been to be accepted to the University of Groningen as a fulltime biology student. To apply, I had to send my curriculum and a letter of motivation. Which motivation? I wasn’t so sure that I’d like to be a student. Actually, I had been quite certain for most of my adult life that I really did not want to study and waste all that precious time for a few crums of knowledge.

But, I overdosed on spacecake and was having a bad trip. I was already depressed. My life hadn’t worked out. I hadn’t turned out to be the type of person that I wanted to be. None of the success. None of the happiness. Little satisfaction. Just some stubborn fantasies about how cool me and my life would be if only…

The physical and mental stress caused by the fear that underlies most major depressions overtook me, so terribly afraid of what others—that’s you—might think of me. This sensation wasn’t new. What was new was a lasting awareness about the extend to which this social anxiety directed my life and a stronger sense about how this might have affected my major life decisions. I felt (more than that I thought) that, maybe, I could try the normal life of a college student.

At the same time, I was very doubtful, because I had occassionally tried to fit into the constraints of society. It never fitted. I had to always give up on the straight path. So why would this work?

I did know that I was interested in biology and—by myself—I never really dug into it, apart from enjoying a Attenborough documentary or two. So, I investigated my options and decided to apply for university.

The next couple of months are a blur of learning, intensifying bouts of depression, despair and the occasional glimmer of hope. Never having finished even one of the lowest level of high-school, I had to face a colloquium doctum, where my knowledge of mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology would be tested.

During the first examination, only my understanding of biology was sufficient. My math, physics and chemistry were terrible (a 2.5, a 2, and a 1 (out of 10) respectively), just above elementary school level.

I had only two attempts left to be in time to start studying after the 2011 summer break. The year after, I’d be 30 and no longer eligible to state support as a student.

During the next attempt, I fluked all remaining three subjects (although physics had turned into a 4). Then, the last attempt approached. I was nervous as hell, and felt ill-prepared at best. I was high on sleep-deprivation during the physics part. Yet, I was confident. Mathematics went terrible. It was mostly calculus and the statistics part was also much harder than the practice exams that I’d used.

So I resigned in my head, because I was certain that I had failed math. I decided I wanted to know how much chemistry had improved since my last attempt, though. (It was so bad then that it wasn’t even graded.) Surprisingly, chemistry went somewhat okay. At least I had made a somewhat informed attempt at an answer on most questions.

Came my grades for math and physics: a 5.5 and a 5.9. How was this possible? I was already planning to go back to France to work with my brother. A 5.5 was exactly sufficient to meet the requirements.

The first semester would start in a week. But I’d have to wait a week for the chemistry grade. This was thrilling, in a good way and a bad way. Finally, the grade came in, just in time for me to know if It’d make sense for me to come to university the next day for all the introductions that would take place.

The next day I was sitting in a lecture hall, filled to the brim with hundreds of 18-year-olds. In just a couple of months I had gone from a 0 (that’s a zero) on chemistry to a whopping 7.8!

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