The US Military is taking a renewed interest in dietary supplements. The new interest marks a shift in the military’s approach to supplements—from being primarily concerned about the quality and safety of ingredients, to actively investigating supplements to help with the challenges of military service, including the stress of war and multiple deployments. As a reflection of that interest, the journal Military Medicine recently published a special issue devoted to the possible application of omega-3 fatty acids in the military. The special issue reported on the findings of an expert panel, convened by the non-profit Samueli Institute and the National Institutes of Health. The panel found sufficient evidence that omega-3s could help with:
Promoting cardiovascular and immunological health
Reducing symptoms of depression and possibly preventing suicides
Aiding recovery after traumatic brain injuries
The panel also determined that the side effects from taking omega-3s were small to negligible and therefore, a Daily Recommend Intake level of omega-3s should be established for military personnel. The panel did not find enough evidence to support the use of omega-3s in post-traumatic stress disorder. It also acknowledged that important questions still remain, such as the best way to increase omega-3 intake and what the amounts should be for each condition. Nevertheless, the military’s growing interest in supplements is evident. In addition to the recent findings about omega-3s, there are several ongoing research programs examining the role of supplements in the military, including a Congressionally-mandated two-year project looking at supplement use and brain function.