The Response of an Expert Panel to Nutritional Armor for the Warfighter

Can Omega-3 Fatty Acids Enhance Stress Resilience, Wellness, and Military Performance?

Published in: Military Medicine, v. 179, no. 11, supplement, Nov. 2014, p. 192-198

Posted on RAND.org on December 01, 2014

by Ian D. Coulter

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BACKGROUND: Recommendations of an Expert Panel on 5 central questions addressed during the workshop. METHODS: The Panel reviewed available scientific literature, workshop presentations, and comments from workshop guests. RESULTS: The Panel unanimously agreed that a military Daily Recommended Intake for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (FAs) should be established within the context of lowering current intakes of omega-6 FAs. The Panelists also felt that there was sufficient evidence to support increasing omega-3 intake to receive cardiovascular, immunological, and surgical benefits. In addition, research indicates that preloading with omega-3 FAs before combat exposure may be beneficial. Evidence for reduction of depressive symptoms and suicide prevention was felt to be strong. Insufficient data were available to evaluate post-traumatic stress disorder and impulsive aggression. Benefits for traumatic brain injury were promising. Adverse side effects were deemed negligible. CONCLUSION: The Panel concluded that based on studies analyzing omega-3 and omega-6 FA balance, it would be unethical to not attempt elevating the omega-3 status among U.S. military personnel.

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