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Recent surveys of dietary supplement use indicate that about 20 percent of active duty personnel are using some type of protein powder. The percentage of users is likely higher among special operations personnel, and this is of concern, given the July 2010 Consumer Reports® alert on protein drinks. These powder products are typically mixed with milk, water, or another liquid to make a shake and promoted as a sure way to increase muscle mass. The products often come in different flavors, with strawberry and chocolate the mainstays.
The Consumer Reports® Alert indicated that most of the 15 protein drink products analyzed contained miniscule to concerning amounts of selected contaminants – arsenic, cadmium, lead, and/or mercury – each of which is toxic to various organs in the body. Military personnel commonly use several of the products noted in the report. These include EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shakes; Muscle Milk chocolate, vanilla crème, and nutritional shake beverages; MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Hardcore Pro-Series Vanilla Milkshake; selected GNC products, and BSN and Optimum Nutrition whey protein products.
It is important to note that if three servings of these products were taken per day, consumers could be ingesting amounts of these contaminants in excess of the maximum limits proposed by the United States Pharmacopeia, the authoritative standard for health products. Importantly, toxic effects have been reported from using these products and are of concern because the Food and Drug Administration does not require such products to be tested to confirm the absence of contaminants and other potentially dangerous products before they are sold.
Take Home Message: A chicken breast, three 8-oz glasses of milk, and three eggs are inexpensive sources of high quality protein, whereas protein powders are expensive sources of uncertain quality, and potentially contaminated, protein. It is both better and cheaper to eat real foods.
The awareness that family well-being is crucial to Warfighter readiness and success is growing. Admiral Mullen’s talk at the Total Fitness Conference in December centered on the importance of the family for total Warfighter fitness. There are numerous programs designed to support the Warfighter’s family – from Family Readiness Groups to advice and counseling services. But other than the common knowledge that military life can be hard on families, why are family relationships so important to Warfighter performance?
For many of us, everything we do, all the choice and decisions we make, are with our families in mind (be it parents, spouses, children, or siblings). This is because relationships enrich our lives. At the same time, relationships can be a double-edged sword – while happy and supportive relationships help people deal with stress better, unsupportive relationships with lots of fighting are a source of stress. In fact, being in a difficult relationship can go beyond just being a source of stress – relationships can impact your health for better or for worse. People in supportive and loving relationships are in better health, rebound from pain and trauma faster, and heal faster than those in unsupportive and negative relationships.
Now imagine the impact a personal relationship filled with a lot of conflict could have on a Warfighter’s ability to be successful in theater, and on returning home from a demanding tour.
The military lifestyle, with its long and stressful deployments and multiple moves, can take a toll even on the best relationships. But stepping outside of the military for a moment, relationship happiness is a major problem for most Americans. Divorce statistics in this country speak for the state of most relationships, and surveys show that of the 50 percent of couples who stay married, less than half report actually being happy with their spouse.
The good news about relationships, though, is that they can improve!
Learning the relationship skills that strengthen families and ease problem areas is something everyone can do. The saying “relationships take work” is true, but the work we put in can powerfully benefit all of our relationships. The importance of these skills is recognized by the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which focuses on prevention and enhancing family relationships as key components of Warfighter performance and success.
In next week's blog, the HPRC will identify what we think are the best strategies for enhancing one’s relationships, based on the research we’ve read. Just like our bodies, relationships also need daily training for optimal fitness. Check back next week for what we think should be in everyone’s “relationship fitness plan.”
The FDA does not strictly regulate dietary supplements. As a result, supplements may not be as pure as stated on the label and may have potentially harmful contaminants. When purchasing dietary supplements, choose products approved by United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or other reputable sources.
When performing physical activities in the heat, avoid drinking liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar since these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they may cause stomach cramps.
Dietary supplements may interact with medications or other dietary supplements, and may even contain ingredients not listed on the label. To help ensure coordinated and safe use, inform your health care provider about any dietary supplements you are using.
John Gottman, a noted couples researcher, has identified four characteristics that destroy relationships over time. In fact, if these characteristics are present when couples communicate, they are more likely to divorce over time. These characteristics are: criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness. Gottman contends that these destroy relationships and termed them “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." Visit the HPRC Overall Family Optimization Skills section to learn more or see for more information (Gottman, 1994; Holman & Jarvis, 2003; Camp, Holman et al. 1993; Gottman and Levenson, 1992; Gottman 1993).
Does LOVE make you healthier? WebMD has compiled recent research on the amazing health effects of love, particularly in marriage. Happily married individuals 1) live longer, 2) see the doctor less, 3) have lower blood pressure, 4) are less depressed and 5) anxious, 6) manage stress better, 7) manage pain better, 8) have fewer colds, 9) heal faster and 10) are happier. See the full article here.
Also, for tips on how to make your relationship better, visit the HPRC Family Matterspage.
Relationships have a profound impact on health and happiness (see HPRC Family Matters section for more information). Recent research confirms that supportive and happy marriages promote better health, and conversely, that conflictual and negative marriages contribute to poor health. These findings may not be specific to just legally married couples since some studies have shown that having a consistently close and intimate relationship fosters positive effects. Click here for the full article.
Remember, taking dietary supplements alone will not reduce your disease risk. You must engage in complementary behaviors such as healthy eating and regular physical activity. Visit the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" publication for more information.
Heat-related injuries are a significant threat to the health and operational effectiveness of military members and their units. The human body’s response to heat stress is quite resilient if given several weeks for adaptation to occur. This process, called acclimatization, involves internal adjustments, in response to the outside environment, which improve heat tolerance. This adaptation can be fully achieved after 10 to 14 days of exposure to heat, but two-thirds, or even 75 percent, of the adaptation takes place within five days.
Myths and/or Claims
1) It is commonly believed that warfighters who are physically fit do not need to be heat acclimatized.
2) It is also assumed that older individuals are less heat tolerant than their younger counterparts.
3) Women are thought to need longer acclimatization time, since they are more vulnerable to heat illness.
1) Though fit warfighters acclimatize faster than less fit warfighters, a physically active person cannot be fully acclimatized without exposure to environmental heat stress.
2) Age has no effect on acclimatization. Research that controlled for body size and composition, aerobic fitness, hydration, degree of acclimatization, and chronological age showed little or no age-related decrements in one’s ability to manage or acclimate to extreme temperatures.
3) Nor does gender appear to be a factor: women were thought to need longer acclimatization, since they are more vulnerable to heat illness. However, women and men show equivalent thermoregulation during exercise when levels of fitness and acclimatization were controlled.
4) Heat-related injuries such as exertional heat illness remain a major cause of illness and occasional fatalities within the Armed Forces. However, as mentioned earlier, the human body’s can be resilient to heat stress if given several weeks to adapt.
Heat acclimatization adaptations may vanish after only a few weeks of inactivity (i.e., 18-28 days). The first adaptations to degrade are those that develop first: heart rate and other cardiovascular variables.
Summary for Military Translation
Studies have shown that acclimated soldiers suffer no detrimental effects of exertional heat stress, despite almost the same degree of heat strain. The Technical Bulletin-Medical 507 provides an evidence-based preventive program to protect military personnel from heat stress and associated adverse health effects. The recommended heat acclimatization strategies are to mimic the deployment climate, ensure adequate heat stress (i.e. by invoking sweating, having 4 to 14 days of heat exposure, and maintaining the daily duration of at least 100 minutes). It is also suggested that heat acclimatization start at least one month before deployment; and upon arrival, acclimatization should start slowly and build up by increasing heat and training volume as tolerance permits.
A.Nunneley, S. (2009). Prevention of Heat Illness Medical Aspects of Harsh Environments, Volume 1: U.S. Army Medical Department's headquarters
Armstrong, L. E. (Ed.) (1998) Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science.
DOD. (2010). Update: Hear Injuries, Active Component, U.S.Armed Forces, 2009. Medical Survillance Monthly Report, Vol.17.
Lugo-Amador, N. M., Rothenhaus, T., & Moyer, P. (2004). Heat-related illness. Emerg Med Clin North Am, 22(2), 315-327, viii. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2004.01.004S0733862704000057 [pii]
McArdle, W., Katch, F., & Katch, V. (2007). Exercise physiology. Energy, Nutrition & Human Performance (Sixth ed.): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Radakovic, S. S., Maric, J., Surbatovic, M., Radjen, S., Stefanova, E., Stankovic, N., et al. (2007). Effects of acclimation on cognitive performance in soldiers during exertional heat stress. Mil Med, 172(2), 133-136.
USACHPPM. (2003). Heat stress control and heat casualty management.