Military powers troops with these two nutrients

During an annual conference hosted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, an expert commented on the military's use of nutrients to support the performance of the armed forces.

Todd Runestad, Content Director,

October 13, 2022

2 Min Read
Military powers troops with these two nutrients

PHOENIX—The U.S. military is always looking for an edge for its troops to build resilience and reduce or alleviate illness or injury. It is studying the use of nutritive additives to build a range of core competencies among its military personnel, from physical and cognitive performance to brain health, immune function, stress fractures and more.

A big concern for the military is preventing stress fractures. For the last five years, this has been the target of published research and the development and dissemination of nutrition bars for basic training enrollees.

A few studies have been published in the last five years using vitamin D and calcium to decrease the number of stress fractures, according to Jonathan M. Scott, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Department of Military and Emergency Medicine, Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP).

Scott spoke at the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) annual conference in Phoenix on Oct. 11.

One study provided female recruits in the Navy with 2,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium and 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D for eight weeks of basic training. Results showed a 20%-reduction in stress fractures.

The Air Force used the same protocol but the results there were not as pronounced.

A subsequent Army study showed benefit in mitigating fractures.

The Marines integrated calcium and vitamin D into a “first strike bar.”

The bars turned out to be hot commodities, used among troops in barracks to trade or hoard, which somewhat confounded results.

Even so, the results showed “pronounced effect on immunity with vitamin D,” said Scott. “Those that were on the intervention saw vitamin D did augment markers of mucosal immunity.”

At the end of the studies on all four branches of the military, the newly rebranded “Performance Readiness Bar” contains 1,000 mg of calcium and 2,000 IU of vitamin D.

The bars are used only at initial training sites—basic training—and they have to be purchased.

“Perhaps in the future, it could be part of rations like MREs (Meals Ready to Eat),” Scott said, “but for now, it’s just initial training sites.”

Another current study, he shared, is evaluating the effectiveness of using spices and herbs to increase vegetable intake.

“We need to get creative in ways to promote vegetable consumption,” Scott said.

The military has also tested using creatine for traumatic brain injury, fish oil for cognitive health and muscle recovery, as well as tart cherry (a natural melatonin source) and citrulline for vasodilation, muscle building and detox purposes, he added.


About the Author(s)

Todd Runestad

Content Director,, Natural Products Insider

Todd Runestad has been writing on nutrition science news since 1997. He is content director for and Natural Products Insider digital magazines. Other incarnations: supplements editor for, Delicious Living!, and Natural Foods Merchandiser. Former editor-in-chief of Functional Ingredients magazine and still covers raw material innovations and ingredient science.

Connect with me here on LinkedIn.


Todd writes about nutrition science news such as this story on mitochondrial nutrients, innovative ingredients such as this story about 12 trendy new ingredient launches from SupplySide West 2023, and is a judge for the NEXTY awards honoring innovation, integrity and inspiration in natural products including his specialty — dietary supplements. He extensively covered the rise and rise and rise and fall of cannabis hemp CBD. He helps produce in-person events at SupplySide West and SupplySide East trade shows and conferences, including the wildly popular Ingredient Idol game show, as well as Natural Products Expo West and Natural Products Expo East and the NBJ Summit. He was a board member for the Hemp Industries Association.

Education / Past Lives

In previous lives Todd was on the other side of nature from natural products — natural history — as managing editor at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. He's sojourned to Burning Man and Mount Everest. He graduated many moons ago from the State University of New York College at Oneonta.


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