- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 31, 2015

The U.S. Army is looking for volunteers who are willing to only eat the military’s pre-packaged food for soldiers, for three weeks. 

The Meals, Ready-to-Eat, also known as MRE’s include such options as “parachute pork,” “battalion brownie pops” and “Ranger red hot party mix.”

The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine is conducting the study on the impact of the MREs on gut health and researchers hope to discover how MREs influence bacteria in troops’ digestive systems.

Participants must be within a reasonable drive to ARIEM’s Natick, Massachusetts location and be willing to limit their diet to only MREs, water and black coffee for 21 days. 

“Interactions between the millions of bacteria living in our gut and what we eat is a very important factor in gut health, but we don’t know how MRE foods interact with those bacteria to impact gut health,” Holly McClung, a research dietitian working on the project, said on the Army’s website. “Ultimately, discovering how eating MREs influences gut bacteria and gut health will help our efforts to continually improve the MRE.”

The problem is finding people who are willing to eat the unappetizing MREs for 21 days straight. 

Part of the problem is the tough durability standards the soldiers’ food has to meet. The meals have to able to withstand parachute drops from 1,250 feet and they must be packaged to maintain a minimum shelf life of three and a half years at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, or nine months at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, an ABC affiliate reported

Not all of the 60 participants will have to suffer through the spaceship food diet though. Half of the volunteers will be part of a control group, which means they will be able to keep their regular eating habits while being subject to medical screenings to be compared to the volunteers on the MRE diet, the Army Times reported

In an attempt to persuade people to participate, Army dietitians created a cook book of sorts, “MRE Recipes: A collection of recipes bringing a creative twist to your MRE experience,” ABC reported. 

The cookbook offers instructions on how to combine limited ingredients to create a new dish. 

For example, Mountaineer mousse dip is made up of a pudding pouch, a dairy shake and water mixed together, Ms. Mclung said. 

“We want to benefit the warfighter in as many ways nutritionally and physiologically as possible,” research dietitian Adrienne Hatch said, ABC reported. “We hope that the ideas offered in this book help entice Soldiers to eat the foods needed to sustain health and energy in the field and ultimately benefit them as they carry out their missions.” 

The results of the study could lead to changes in MRE formulas and rations .

 

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