Forget the Gatorade

Soldiers at war are subjected to extreme conditions in addition to the bullets and bombs. I remember some of my dad’s WWWII recollections centering on the crappy food, the waking up in puddles of water, endless marching in rainy, disgusting weather conditions, etc. I’ve heard true horror stories about the conditions soldiers endured during the Vietnamese conflict.

While research on replenishing energy is not new, the search is going new places. With our growing understanding about the power of oxidants (free radicals) to damage the immune system, investigators at Appalachian State University have received $1.1 million to look at the possibilities for quercetin, a yellowish-green pigment occurring naturally in red apples, red berries, red onions and other fruits and vegetables. Technically, quercetin is a phytochemical that contains lots of antioxidants. Some think it will produce viable solutions for protecting the immune systems of soldiers under pressure.

Using volunteer cyclists, university scientists are doing placebo control studies that test how effectively quercetin boosts the immune response of exhausted people (3 hours a day of cycling for 3 days in a row is supposed to simulate the type of stress a soldier is exposed to on an intensive, prolonged mission). Previous studies have looked at how certain drinks might help prolong the time to exhaustion–this one’s about keeping soldiers healthier despite the extreme stress to their bodies. Too bad we’ll never be able to eliminate the causes.