A Coaching Intervention to Promote Nutrition and Bone Health in Deployed Soldiers


Name: Mary McCarthy

Rank: MAJ

Organization: The Geneva Foundation

Performance Site: Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, WA

Year Published: 2010

Abstract Status: Final


Soldier nutritional status and bone health are critical components of operational readiness. Military life encompasses unique circumstances that increase Soldiers’ vulnerability to nutrient deficiency unlike the general population. In Overseas Contingency Operations the requirement for heavy individual body armor while exposed to high temperatures for long periods of time predisposes Soldiers to negative energy balance, dehydration, and mineral losses, such as calcium, from excessive sweating.  These insults to nutritional status may impair physiologic and immunologic functions resulting in performance decrements and diminished resistance to illness and disease.  A report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), Mineral Requirements for Military Personnel (2006), provides data to support a relationship between adequate mineral levels and optimal physical and cognitive performance. Maintaining healthy weight and physical fitness goals while deployed may be instrumental in facilitating performance reintegration for Soldiers assuming garrison duties upon redeployment.  Researchers in the Bone Health and Military Medical Readiness Program are just beginning to understand the complex influences on bone metabolism from the environment, diet, genetics, exercise, and stress.

This proposal will extend pilot work that examined the impact of acute sweat calcium losses on bone health by incorporating measures of bone density and metabolism over a 2 year period, and assessing the effects of intensity and duration of physical activity and physiologic stress on bone health. Due to an identified lack of knowledge about hydration, and proper nutrition for health in general and bone health in particular, telehealth strategies using the Army Knowledge Online web portal will be incorporated into this proposal. This component will focus on dietary and physical activity adaptations necessary during prolonged deployment to promote bone health.

Consequences of lengthy and multiple deployments include metabolic alterations such as weight gain or loss, musculoskeletal injuries, cognitive deficits, and stress-related disorders. It is unknown how long it takes for the endocrine, musculoskeletal, and immune system to return to pre-deployment levels of functioning. More research is needed to examine long-term follow up measures of physical and psychological health. Military nurses in the role of brigade nurse, public health nurse, or primary care clinic nurse are positioned to reinforce principles of a healthy diet and regular exercise for strong bones, during each encounter with a Soldier.


Final Report is available on NTRL: https://ntrl.ntis.gov/NTRL/dashboard/searchResults/titleDetail/PB2015104...