Military powers troops with these two nutrientsMilitary 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.
October 13, 2022
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.
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