Samueli Institute Nutritionist Educates Warfighters on Healthy Eating


Quantico, Va. - June  17, 2013

The obesity epidemic in the United States has created a weight problem for the U.S. Military. America’s youth are increasingly “too fat to fight,” with more than 25 percent of potential recruits rejected for being overweight. Even those who pass muster still struggle, and the military must discharge more than 1,200 first term enlistees yearly because of weight-related problems. With training costs of more than $50,000 per recruit, obesity is costing the military more than $60 million each year.

Military officials and health experts are increasingly recognizing obesity as a national security issue, and on Friday, June 14, 2013 Samueli Institute Health, Research and Education Research Associate Laura Dotson, MS-MPH, was invited to Marine Corps Base Quantico to talk about nutrition and what Warfighters should eat to maximize performance.

Dotson presented to 60 Marines and their spouses about practical tips for grocery shopping, eating out, and eating on the go. 

“One of the best defenses for optimal performance is fueling your body the proper and healthy way,” she said.

One common misperception is that carbohydrates make people gain weight. Dotson said foods with carbohydrate do not cause obesity. In fact, people gain too much weight if they eat more calories than their bodies burn. Dotson also cautioned the Warfighters not to eat too much protein. Most athletes do not need to consume supplementary protein due to the large amounts of protein in the typical diet.

“Sugar-sweetened beverages and energy drinks are another big issue for military personnel. The average adult eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily. One regular 20 ounce soda has sixteen teaspoons of added sugar. That’s two days’ worth of recommended daily amounts of added sugar,” she said, “My best advice is to limit the sugar-sweetened beverages and stick to water.”

Dotson also discussed the importance of staying hydrated. Water is the main transport of nutrients which results in faster reaction time and greater endurance. Dehydration can decrease performance by as much as 10 percent. She also cautioned the Marines about dietary supplements and emphasized that supplements can't take the place of the variety of foods important to a healthy diet.

 “The men and women in the military put their lives on the line for us every single day. I feel honored to have the opportunity to help them in any way I can,” said Dotson.

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