Novel nutritional supplement boosts cognitive performance in Air Force Airmen

By Stephen Daniells contact

- Last updated on GMT

The study included active-duty Air Force Airmen recruited from Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.  Image © johnaudrey / Getty Images
The study included active-duty Air Force Airmen recruited from Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Image © johnaudrey / Getty Images

Related tags: Dietary supplement, Abbott, Cognition, cognitive performance, Cognitive function, reaction times, Hmb

A novel nutritional supplement combined with high-intensity exercise may boost working memory, reaction time, and processing efficiency for Air Force Airmen more than exercise alone, says a study from the US Air Force, Abbott, and the University of Illinois.

Data published in Nature’sScientific Reports​ indicated that high-intensity interval aerobic fitness and strength training led to improvements in a range of physical and cognitive scores, but adding the novel supplement led to additional improvements in a range of measures, both physical and mental.

The physical and mental improvements aligned with “corresponding changes in blood-based biomarkers of nutrition,” ​wrote the researchers.

“While the findings are based on a large sample of Air Force Airmen and demonstrate that physical fitness and cognitive enhancement is achievable, the multimodal lifestyle intervention documented in this study could easily be implemented in other real-world contexts to optimize human performance,” ​they added.

Supplement

The novel nutritional supplement’s ingredients included protein, HMB, choline, lutein, phospholipids, DHA, magnesium, selenium, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, C, D, and E and folic acid. The nutritional supplement beverage is copyrighted by Abbott, stated the researchers.

A spokesperson for Abbott told NutraIngredients-USA that the supplement was designed for the study and is not available on the market.

“Abbott will use key insights from the study and the drink’s ingredients to inform future product development and upgrades on existing formulations,” ​said the spokesperson.

Study details

The researchers recruited 148 active-duty Air Force Airmen to participate in their 12-week randomized controlled trial. All the participants underwent a high-intensity interval aerobic fitness and strength training with half receiving the novel supplement and the other half receiving a placebo beverage.

Results showed that the exercise intervention by itself improved various measures of physical fitness, including strength and endurance by 8.3%, power by 0.85%, mobility and stability by  22%, and lean muscle mass by 1.4%, while heart rate decreased by 1.1%.

For cognitive measures, the physical training alone was associated with a 9.5% increase in episodic memory, a 7.5% increase in processing efficiency, a 19.5% increase in fluid intelligence accuracy, and a 4.7% decreased in executive function reaction time.

Compared to the exercise-only group, those also receiving the nutritional supplement displayed improvements in working memory of 11% and fluid intelligence reaction time of 6%. Improvements in heart rate and lean muscle mass were also greater in the supplement plus exercise group.

“These findings establish the efficacy of a multimodal intervention that incorporates aerobic fitness and strength training with a novel nutritional supplement to enhance military performance objectives and to provide optimal exercise training and nutritional support for the modern warfighter,” ​concluded the researchers.

Source: Scientific Reports
Volume 10, Article number: 17826 (2020), doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-74140-7
“Enhanced physical and cognitive performance in active duty Airmen: evidence from a randomized multimodal physical fitness and nutritional intervention”
Authors: C.E. Zwilling, et al.

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