Wednesday, June 5, 2013 — KANNAPOLIS, N.C. – North Carolina State University has gained support from the U.S. Army to create functional food ingredients from fruits and vegetables that will be used to develop healthier, more portable combat rations for soldiers. Researchers with N.C. State's Plants for Human Health Institute (PHHI), located at the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis, are infusing different protein powders and flours, the kinds found at health and nutrition stores, with health-promoting compounds from kale greens and muscadine grapes.
The research addresses a critical military challenge: how to provide balanced diets (inclusive of fruits and vegetables) to troops in the field that will have taste appeal while still maintaining shelf life, portability and health-protective functionality. The answer, PHHI researchers believe, lies within a proprietary technology they’re using to develop nutrient-enhanced food ingredients, which can then be used to make drinks, power bars, cookies and other healthy snacks for soldiers.
The Center for Advanced Processing and Packaging Studies (CAPPS), a National Science Foundation-initiated program designed to foster partnerships between industry and universities, has awarded $60,000 in grants to help support the project. The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center, the Army’s organization responsible for developing and managing soldier-support items like food, clothing and shelters, an industry member of CAPPS, stands to benefit from PHHI’s efforts.
Research shows a strong relationship between strenuous physical activity and mental stress – common experiences for many military soldiers – and inflammation and negative immune system responses, which in turn can increase the risk of injury and poor mental and physical performance. Combat rations that are supplemented with natural, safe and effective fruit and vegetable compounds may counteract some of those negative health impacts and reduce the risk of experiencing them, according to Dr. Mary Ann Lila, PHHI director and project research coordinator.