Nutrition and the Military 2Sincethe existence of the Roman Army over 2000 years ago, military commanders havelong known the importance of providing their units with adequate provisionssuch as nutritious food and water.
Without those two things an entire army canexpect or expect to be a successful war combating unit. Adequate food and aregular supply of water, ensure the maintenance of proper physical capabilitiesand mental performance expected of a soldier. Whether it is a history ofmilitary personnel dying from poor nutrition, nutrition suitable of militaryoperations, or promoting wellness throughout all 3 branches of military,nutrition and the military and fundamentally entwined. Throughouthistory, there are many examples how nutrition affects operational performance.One example can be seen where Scurvy (lack of vitamin C) accounted for moredeaths than the enemy had killed onboard the HMS Salisbury.
During Lord Anson’scircumnavigation of the world (1740-1744), 636 of the 961 sailors about hisship succumbed to Scurvy. While serving as the ship’s surgeon on the HMSSalisbury, James Lind, Royal Navy, observed that many of the symptoms werecaused by lack of citrus fruits and fresh vegetables. In his book “A Treatiseof the Scurvy” published in 1753, he recommended more intake of citrus fruitsand celery stalks to prevent Scurvy. Along with Lord Anson’s circumnavigation,many lives were lost during the Crimean war due to poor hygiene and severelyinadequate nutrition. It was until Florence Nightingale and Alexis Soyer, twocivilian French chefs, intervened and improved the sanitation and structure of thenutrition distribution to the fighting troops and the sick. Nutrition and the Military 3Onoperations or military exercises where there is no field kitchen and fresh foodis not available, military personal are issues often called Operational RationPacks (ORPs), Meal Individual Rations (MIRs), or Meals Ready to Eat (MREs).
These rations packs are designed to “sustain troops on operations and duringfield exercises, with the aim of preserving life, preserving physical andmental functions, maintaining mood and motivation, preventing fatigue, andspeeding up recovery”. Even with all the nutrient packed rations, mostmilitaries recommend replacing ration packs with fresh food after no more than44 days (14 in combat duties, and 30 subsequent days). Issued in the UnitedKingdom, the MCR (Multi-Climate-Ration), contains an energy intake of 4098calories, 651 grams or carbohydrate, 130 grams or protein, and 92 grams of fatif all components of food are eaten. “The soldier who is well fed is not onlyin better bodily health and better able to resist disease, but he is morecheerful in difficulties and therefore more equal to any strain he may becalled upon to endure” (Boot Camp and Military Fitness Institute, 2017).Fortunately,in addition to nutrition for performance, attention is also being given tonutrition for wellness within the military. Without a doubt, the constantpromotion for nutrition for performance has given way to nutrition forwellness. The growing awareness of the need to keep its workforces healthy inand in optimal function has created an increase in awareness and concern inboth the civilian contractor and military side.
Dietitians look at the wholepatient and asses where they are in the military life cycle. Most the educationfrom there is addressed in order to meet the needs some Nutrition and the Military 4unique individuals may have.Military dietitians are always actively collaborating with health careproviders and health promotion program coordinators and in disease preventionefforts with the end goal of reducing chronic conditions and diseases such asobesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, etc., to improve the qualityof life in the armed forces.
One may often ask, “What does nutrition have to do withthe military?” Whether is it better preparing the forces for combat operationsthroughout history, or having optimal physical and mental performance duringcombat duties, nutrition plays a major role in the operations of militaries aroundthe world. Even after members are not selected for combat duties, there isalways a promotion for health and nutrition in the armed forces. After all, youcan’t fight on an empty stomach.