The Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine’s military nutrition division is conducting a study on how Meals, Ready-to-Eat affect the digestive system.
Those participating in the study will eat nothing but MREs for three weeks.
The aim of the study is to seek ways to improve the nutrition of MREs by looking at how the meals do in soldiers’ guts — something the study head Dr. J. Philip Karl calls “gut health.”
“There’s a lot of interesting and new research looking at gut bacteria, and how those gut bacteria interact with the human body,” Karl told Army Times recently. He added that an “explosion” in research technology over the last decade allows researchers to “really get an understanding that we never have before.”
As the study continues into 2016, Karl’s team plans to determine what bacteria fuel — indigestible carbohydrates, for instance — might be lacking in the MRE menu, according to the Army Times report.
By working with fellow researchers at the Army’s Combat Feeding Directorate, they can begin to incorporate these nutrients into the meals.
Plant-based materials proven to benefit the bacteria could be extracted and included in a First Strike energy bar, for example.
Hey, if it improves the nutritional value of MREs, I’m all for it. Like other former soldiers, I’ve eaten my share of MREs. Back in the day, my favorite was the spaghetti. I’m not sure if they still make it, but heated up and spiced up, it made for a decent meal.
As a tanker, I would heat MREs on the exhaust vent of the M1A1 Abrams I worked on.
The turbine engine emits a blast of hot air in the back of the tank, and there are some spots where a food package or cup of coffee can be placed and heated up. It usually only takes a few minutes to warm up.
I would also douse the spaghetti with the tiny bottle of Tabasco that came with the MRE.
MREs are a necessity for soldiers to keep them fed in the field, but they’ve also become part of the Army culture. Soldiers trade MREs, or their portions. Soldiers get excited about MREs. Soldiers get tired and disgusted with MREs, too — especially if that’s all they’ve had to eat for weeks at a time.
Hopefully, this ongoing study will consider the taste of MREs. That’s an area where there is always room for improvement.