US Army soldiers look to supplements for performance boosts

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dietary supplements Military Dietary supplement

Soldiers are more likely than their civilian peers to use dietary supplements linked to performance enhancement, a survey of 990 US Army personnel has revealed.

While 63 percent of the soldiers took supplements in order to improve their health, a significant proportion also listed reasons including providing more energy, increasing muscle strength, and enhancing performance, according to findings published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition​.

Led by Harris Lieberman from the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, the researchers found that 53 percent of the surveyed soldiers were users of dietary supplements, with the average monthly spend of $38.

“Soldiers, like civilians, use large amounts of dietary supplements, often in combination,”​ wrote Lieberman and his co-workers. “Soldiers use more dietary supplements purported to enhance performance than civilians use when matched for key demographic factors. These differences may reflect the unique occupational demands and stressors of military service,”​ they added.

Survey details

Lieberman and co-workers surveyed 990 randomly selected soldiers from 11 bases around the world. Data showed that, in addition to significant dietary supplement use, 23 percent of the soldiers used sports beverages, while 6 percent consumed sports bars or gels.

“Most commonly used DSs were multivitamins or multiminerals (37.5 percent), protein and amino acids (18.7 percent), individual vitamins and minerals (17.9 percent), combination products (9.1 percent), and herbal supplements (8.3 percent),”​ stated the researchers.


Earlier this year the US Department of Defense (DOD) stated it is considering either supplementing or fortifying with omega-3 the rations of all active service personnel in order to enhance stress resilience and general wellness leading to improved military performance, to cut hospital bills and to speed recovery from traumatic brain injuries (TBI).

A spokesperson for the department told NutraIngredients-USA in February that: “There are discussions at many levels about the addition of the omega-3, especially in combat-feeding and/or clinical setting (eg TBI) but they are discussions at this point in time.”

Although the department has no official view about the benefits of omega-3s, its Dietary Supplements Committee is working with Samueli Institute based in Alexandria, Virginia, to explore the military benefits of their use.

Conclusions: Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29274
“Use of dietary supplements among active-duty US Army soldiers”
Authors: H.R. Lieberman, T.B. Stavinoha, S.M. McGraw, A. White, L.S. Hadden, B.P. Marriott

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