Natick Soldiers and civilians needed for Army nutrition studies

By Mallory RousselJanuary 21, 2021

Natick Soldiers and civilians needed for Army nutrition studies
Inside the Doriot Climatic Chambers within the Natick Soldier Systems Center, a Soldier study volunteer performs an aerobic endurance exercise on a treadmill while a research dietitian from the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine assesses his cardiovascular fitness. This is one of the typical tests USARIEM’s scientists have study volunteers perform during nutrition studies. (Photo Credit: Julie Coleman, USARIEM) VIEW ORIGINAL

NATICK, Mass. (Jan. 21, 2021) -- The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine is recruiting military and civilian volunteers for various nutrition studies that will launch at the beginning of 2021.

USARIEM’s nutrition researchers are seeking participants who live around the Natick, Massachusetts area and are willing to come to USARIEM’s laboratory located in Natick Soldier Systems Center. Some of these studies will involve eating a military ration-based diet, which includes Meals, Ready-to-Eat, or MREs, for certain periods of time.

The Army has spent decades optimizing field rations and developing nutrition guidance to promote health and performance on and off the battlefield. Yet, the battlefield is always changing and presenting new, unique physical and cognitive demands for warfighters. These obstacles can negatively affect wound recovery, gut health, nutrition status and overall health and performance.

USARIEM researchers hope to discover how new knowledge of the gut microbiome, protein and carbohydrate metabolism and the immune system could improve future military rations and nutrition guidance for warfighters. The overarching goal of this work is to improve performance on the battlefield and help protect troops from illness.

However, USARIEM is unable to carry out this research without the help of study volunteers.

Researchers are following proper risk mitigation procedures consistent with preexisting regulations and Institutional Review Board guidelines to ensure the health and safety of human research volunteers and the staff.

Risk mitigation measures are reviewed by a panel of experts to ensure that the use of personal protective gear, social distancing measures, changes in study logistics and adjusted data collection procedures will protect subjects and study staff while maintaining scientific integrity and commitment to public health.

Each study has its own specific eligibility criteria, experimental procedures and varying time commitments, which study team members carefully review with prospective research volunteers during the recruitment process.

Here's what you need to know about these ongoing studies:

1.      Ketone supplement and exercise study

Men and women ages 18 to 39 are needed to participate in a study determining if drinking a ketone ester supplement before exercise changes how the body uses carbohydrate, fat and protein, and improves lower body power and endurance exercise performance.

To be eligible, participants must be physically active (two to four days per week of aerobic or resistance exercise), and they must be willing to stop using dietary supplements, alcohol and tobacco during study periods.

The study will take three to four weeks to complete. Testing will include body composition measurements, fitness assessment, blood draws, non-radioactive stable isotope infusions, exercise sessions on a treadmill and stationary bike, controlled diet for six days total and drinking a ketone ester supplement. Participants will be compensated up to $540 for completing the study.

2.      Study on gut health and immune function at high altitude

USARIEM is conducting a clinical research study to determine the effects of a nutritional supplement on gut bacteria, and gastrointestinal, brain and immune function at high altitude. This is a 10-week study (approximately 173 hours in the lab) that includes:

  • One to five lab visits per week (30 to 180 minutes per visit) for 10 weeks.
  • Three 40-hour stays in an altitude chamber.
  • Eating a nutritional supplement (14 consecutive days, three times during the study) and provided diet (nine consecutive days, three times during the study).
  • Exercise and cognitive testing; and blood, tear, saliva, urine and fecal sample collection.

Healthy male and female participants between the ages of 18 and 39 are needed for this study. To be eligible, participants must exercise at least three days a week and have a body mass index, or BMI, that is less than or equal to 30. Participants must not have any gastrointestinal diseases or problems.

Non-government civilian participants will be compensated up to $1300 for completing the study, and military and federal civilians will be compensated up to $600.

3.      Protein, exercise and muscle health study

Healthy men and women ages 18 to 35 years are needed to participate in a research study examining the effects of drinking a protein beverage on the body’s ability to build muscle during calorie deprivation (when food intake is reduced).

Study participation will last approximately 37 days and will include drinking a protein beverage with added carbohydrate or essential amino acids, and eating strictly controlled study diets comprised of military rations and commercially available foods.

Study procedures include body composition assessments, blood draws, urine collection, muscle biopsies, study exercise, non-radioactive stable isotope infusions and drinking protein-containing beverages.

Volunteers must be doing aerobic or body weight exercise at least twice a week for the past six months. Testing will occur at the USARIEM laboratories in Natick, Massachusetts.

Military personnel and civilians are eligible to participate. Compensation of up to $1147.50 is available for those who complete the study.

4.      Body composition and immune function study

Men and women between the ages of 18 and 39 are needed for a study to determine how body weight and body composition impact immune function, skin barrier restoration time, skeletal inflammation and nutrient status. Results will also help researchers test if nutrition interventions to improve immune function are warranted.

This study consists of one or two visits for a medical clearance and baseline testing, followed by one full day of testing (eight hours) and up to 10 days of follow-up testing (an hour and a half each day). The study also involves pre-study sleep monitoring (seven days), diet questionnaires and diet monitoring (i.e., researchers will ask you to record all foods and beverages that you eat and drink during the pre-study period). Researchers will take blood samples at baseline, on the full day of testing and at the end of the follow-up testing period. On the full day of testing, researchers will create eight circular suction blisters (approximately the size of a pencil eraser) on your forearms. Researchers will sample blister fluid four, seven, 24, 48, and 72 hours after they create the blisters. Water loss from the blister sites will be measured daily after the blisters are created, until the skin barrier is restored to 90 percent (approximately seven to 10 days).

To be eligible, participants must:

  • Be between the ages of 18 (or 17 for military personnel) and 39.
  • Have a BMI between 18.5 and 25, or have a BMI greater than or equal to 30.
  • Have a stable weight by not losing more than five pounds for the past two months and agree not to attempt to lose or gain weight for the duration of the study.
  • Participate in 120 to 300 minutes of aerobic exercise over the course of three days per week.
  • Be willing to participate in all study procedures and comply with all study instructions.
  • If female, have a normal menstrual cycle between 26 and 32 days in duration; five menstrual cycles within the past six months; or be able to provide documentation of oral or hormonal contraceptive use that contains low-dose estrogen or progesterone to maintain continuous levels throughout the 28-day cycle.
  • Be able to speak and read English fluently.

Non-federal employees will be compensated up to $560 upon completing the study. Military personnel and federal civilians will be compensated up to $100.

For more information, or to inquire about participating, please reach out to the USARIEM Public Affairs Office at


The U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine provides solutions to enhance warfighter health and performance through biomedical research. USARIEM was established in 1961 as a research laboratory under the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command. Today, the institute is internationally recognized as the Department of Defense's premier laboratory for warfighter health performance. USARIEM focuses on environmental medicine, physiology, physical and cognitive performance, and nutrition research. The institute conducts its mission by leveraging its unique capabilities, facilities and global partnerships with industry, academia and the government. USARIEM conducts research both in their laboratory in Natick, Massachusetts and in military camps, posts and stations across the world. In the face of a rapidly changing, complex conflict environment, USARIEM continues to be a leader in human performance research by anticipating future demands and developing solutions for Army leadership, ensuring that warfighters are ready to fight, win and safely return home.