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U.S. Army Needs Volunteers to Eat MREs for 3 Weeks

Update Date: Jan 01, 2016 09:15 AM EST

Have you ever wondered what soldiers eat? If so, a new study will not only tell you, it will pay you to taste it.

The U.S. Army Institute of Environmental Medicine is in need of 60 participants for its latest research on how "Meals, Ready to Eat" or MREs affect gut health. Volunteers will have to eat these military ration foods for 21 straight days. The army is currently offering $200 per volunteer.

"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 who is involved with this study, 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."

Dr. J. Philip Karl added, reported by the Army Times, "We think we can manipulate the bacteria in a way that helps the bacteria fight foreign pathogens - things that could cause food-borne illness, for example. Oftentimes, war fighters are overseas and they eat something off the local economy that can cause distress. Potentially, what we could do by increasing the amount of beneficial gut bacteria is to help prevent some of that."

Half of the study's participants will be assigned to eat MREs, water and black coffee only. They will not be allowed to drink alcohol. The other half of the study sample will eat their regular diets.

Since MREs are typically very bland foods, the researchers have created "MRE Recipes: A collection of recipes bringing a creative twist to your MRE experience" with the hopes of enticing volunteers. The researchers also hope to find ways of improving the flavor of MREs.

"We want to benefit the warfighter in as many ways nutritionally and physiologically as possible," research dietitian Adrienne Hatch said. "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."

When creating MREs, the army must follow straight nutritional guidelines that allow these meals to withstand several conditions. For example, MREs have to be able to fall 1,250 feet from the air without getting spoiled.

In addition, since conditions are often changing depending on where the soldiers are stationed, MREs have to have a shelf life of three-and-a-half years at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When the temperatures hit 100 degrees, the shelf life is about nine months.

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