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Eat MREs, Earn $200 in New Army Nutrition Study

Image: Eat MREs, Earn $200 in New Army Nutrition Study
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By    |   Thursday, 31 Dec 2015 12:21 PM

Army researchers, hoping to improve the packaged ready-to-eat meals it feeds its soldiers in the field, are looking for some volunteers willing to eat nothing but that food for a three-week-long study.

The Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine military nutrition department hopes that the study on its Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) will help it research several goals, including better meeting "gut health" standards and determining what nutrients need to be added to the rations, reports The Army Times

"There's a lot of interesting and new research looking at gut bacteria, and how those gut bacteria interact with the human body," said study head Dr. J Philip Karl, adding that an "explosion" in research technology will help the project's researchers "really get an understanding that we never have before."

Volunteers will get up to $200, but it's not just a matter of eating and telling the researchers how the MREs taste. They'll also be subjected to a barrage of tests designed to determine how the body digests the meals.

"Research will give us some idea of what we think will work, we'll go and test to make sure it's doing what I think it's doing, and at that point it starts to get incorporated into the rations," Karl said.

The researchers are also hoping to manipulate the bacteria in the MREs to fight foreign pathogens that could cause foodborne and other illnesses, according to Karl.

"Oftentimes, war fighters are overseas and they eat something off the local economy that can cause [gastrointestinal] distress," he said. "Potentially, what we could do by increasing the amount of beneficial gut bacteria is to help prevent some of that."

People signing up must live within close driving distance of ARIEM's Natick, Massachusetts location and must be willing to consume nothing but MREs, water, or black coffee for three weeks, according to a guidelines list. 

Further, although the meal part of the study is only three weeks long, it requires a six-week commitment, and includes multiple blood draws and other tests, including fecal samples. Full details and registration information are available here.

Not everyone will only have to eat MREs. Half of the 60 expected participants will be allowed to eat regular foods, but will also have to go through the medical screenings.

Furthermore, the participants won't have to eat the MREs from the package but can access recipes from an MRE cookbook created by two Natick research dieticians, Adrienne Hatch and Holly McClung. The cookbook includes diverse offerings such as "Canteen Irish Cream Latte, Bunker Hill Burritos, and Fort Bliss-ful Pudding Cake."

"Working with this cookbook project has shown me a lot about what the MRE can offer," said Hatch, who noted she had heard some negative comments from soldiers about the meals.

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Army researchers, hoping to improve the packaged ready-to-eat meals it feeds its soldiers in the field, are looking for some volunteers willing to eat nothing but that food for a three-week-long study.
army study, mre, meal, diet, study
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2015-21-31
Thursday, 31 Dec 2015 12:21 PM
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