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NEWS
Fortified Foods Aim to Promote a Healthy Military
August 1, 2008

Back in World War II, the U.S. military gave soldiers Hershey chocolate bars to boost their morale as well as their energy. The Ration D bar was a survival ration that provided subsistence calories and nutrition to soldiers facing extreme conditions.

With today’s scientific advancements in nutrition, soldiers will soon be plied with candy, cookies and cakes, except these will contain probiotics, the beneficial bacteria already found in the human gut.

Because they suffer from high incidences of diarrhea, U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan will soon receive ice cream sandwiches, peanut butter bars and vanilla pudding desserts filled with probiotics, with the hope that good bacteria will help curb intestinal illness.

Most of the products are still in development, but the U.S. military hopes to soon begin human trials. If they pass, they will be sent to soldiers in the field.

“My understanding is the incidence of intestinal illness is above average. We’re trying to come up with nutritional strategies to help alleviate that,” said Kenneth Racicot, food technologist for the U.S. Army Research Development Engineering Command (REDCOM) a military research and development center in Natick, Mass.

Aside from candies and desserts filled with probiotics, the military is experimenting with chocolate banana bars that contain Quercetin, an antioxidant, as well as a cinnamon gum that contains caffeine, and a squeezable sweet gel containing a variety of nutritional supplements.

They’ve also been experimenting with Kefir granules, the cultures used to make Kefir, a lactose-free, fermented dairy drink that also promotes intestinal health as well as longevity. The granules, which consist of probiotic bacteria and yeast, are shaped like a shell, making them a good delivery vehicle for nutritional supplements.

U.S. military officials need to find ways to give soldiers vitamins and nutrients because they are prohibited from doling out vitamin pills, Mr. Racicot said. Instead, they add supplements to foods like milk and candy.

It’s not always easy. Food scientists initially tried to put the Quercetin into a cranberry raspberry bar, but when the substance, which is a bright yellow powder, mixed with the red berries, it turned the bars orange.


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