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Caffeine in the Military

Active-duty military soldiers are known to have long, and sometimes strenuous work hours, even while home, stateside. It’s not unusual for soldiers and officers to turn to stimulants to help them get their shifts. We wanted to know if military personnel were consuming more or less caffeine than civilians and whether or not the caffeine intake is helping their performance or hurting them in the long run. Soldiers have a different mental make-up and are on constant alert, so will a stimulant such as caffeine exacerbate their built in fight-or-flight response?

Caffeine is one of the most widespread and widely accepted stimulant in the United States. According to a study that was published in a National Library of Medicine article, approximately 80% of American adults consume caffeine products on a regular basis, although the pattern and type of energy booster was not detailed. As an offset of this study, the researchers looked at military personnel and their use of caffeine products such as coffee, tea, energy drinks and other supplements to help keep them awake and functional during their long work hours. This side study looked at 990 American active-duty soldiers.

How Much Caffeine Do Soldiers Drink?
The above study found that approximately 82% of the soldiers surveyed consume some type of caffeinated supplement on a regular basis (at least once a week). The average consumption of daily caffeine consumption was 285 mg/day, which is actually significantly lower than regular caffeine users at 347 mg/day. Statistically, male soldiers consumed approximately 150 mg more caffeine a day than women soldiers. Younger soldiers consumed more energy drinks and supplements, but older soldiers preferred coffee. In any case, this study showed that most of the soldiers consumed caffeine at levels deemed as safe by national health institutes and medical experts.

Does Caffeine Help Performance?
Military jobs such as sentry duty, deployment activities, emergency transport, submarine duty, and even active combat require soldiers to be alert and focused for extended periods of time. These vital tasks could be compromised with drowsiness and fatigue, and while adequate sleep would be the ideal treatment for this type of situation, that is not always practical in military operations. The Committee on Military Nutrition Research at the Institute of Medicine feel that caffeine could prevent cognitive function impairments induced by sleep deprivation. The Department of Defense has requested the assistance of these experts to create and supply pharmaceutical or dietary caffeine supplements that are easily stored and used in daily and combat situations for military personnel.

Caffeine in the Military: Dose Recommendations for Military Personnel
While supplements and pharmaceutical options exist already, the DOD is looking more for a specific purely caffeinated supplement in pill form that can be part of a soldier’s daily travel/work gear. Generally speaking, up to 600 mg of caffeine are deemed safe for use in high-stress, continuous military operations, without any noted serious side effects or problems found. The experts on the committee advise adequate hydration and taking the caffeine in 100-mg increments.

 

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