Dietary Substances in the Military: The Metabolically Optimized Brain


More members of the U.S. military (74%) use dietary substances than civilians (52%)1; however the safety and value of these substances are largely unknown within the military community.

Samueli Institute was commissioned to develop “The Program for Research on Dietary Supplements in Military Operations and Healthcare: The Metabolically Optimized Brain (MOB) Study” in 2013 to uncover nutrition’s role in Service members’ mission readiness.


“Achieving optimal cognitive wellness and performance is essential for the health and mission readiness of the U.S. military.

Our service members face demanding physical and cognitive challenges and we need to support them with good science.”

– Wayne B. Jonas, MD, CEO and President, Samueli Institute

Subject matter experts convened at Samueli Institute, Alexandria, VA, in March of 2015 to identify the state of the science for dietary nutrition and turn that science into action through feeding policies and guidelinesSubject matter experts convened at Samueli Institute, Alexandria, VA, in March of 2015

During a break, experts participated in a fun tasting experiment of natural and sweetened cranberry juice to compare the sugar content. 

SugarinJuiceVIEW THE PHOTO GALLERY: After two days of meetings, the team gathered to experience first-hand how healthy  cooking can be fun and delicious.


Through this work, Samueli Institute is synthesizing the evidence base for a “metabolically optimized brain,” which includes two elements, both of which are essential for a resilient, high-performing military:

  1. Nutritional and metabolic elements for enhancing cognitive performance (efficacy, effectiveness, and safety of dietary and supplemental enhancement of brain function).
  2. Nutrient and dietary possibilities to mitigate cognitive and psychological consequences of brain injury during combat and operational exposures.

In-depth systematic literature reviews will uncover the state of the science and form a foundation in order to make recommendations for military menus regarding dietary patterns, the incorporation of fatty acids and plant-based phytochemical-rich foods into menus, and the use of caffeine in military-like settings.


Based on the completion of the systematic reviews, a panel of experts will help turn the science into action by identifying policy recommendations for the U.S. military services.

This will include dining facility policy, menu, and practice recommendations to promote optimal mission-ready brain function and performance; and mitigate cognitive and psychological consequences of brain injury from high intensity training, and combat operations exposures.

The MOB project is tapping into Samueli Institute’s expertise in the areas of systematic reviews and expert panels. Samueli Institute created SEaRCH™ (Scientific Evaluation and Review of Claims in Health Care) Services to provide a scientifically rigorous, yet systematic and streamlined method for evaluating claims of therapies, practices or products for treating disease, improving health and/or improving human performance.

SEaRCH™ has particular applicability to traditional complementary and integrative health practice but is equally valid for any claim of any intervention—be it a product, practice or program. Learn more.


 1Lieberman HR, Stavinoha TB, McGraw SM, White A, Hadden LS, Marriott BM. Use of dietary supplements among active-duty US Army soliders. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92:1-11.

 This work is supported by the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command under Award No W81XWH-13-1-0068. The views, opinions and/or findings contained in this report are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy or decision unless so designated by other documentation. In the conduct of research where humans are the subjects, the investigator(s) adhered to the policies regarding the protection of human subjects as prescribed by Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 45, Volume 1, Part 46; Title 32, Chapter 1, Part 219; and Title 21, Chapter 1, Part 50 (Protection of Human Subjects).