Monday, March 19, 2007
Daily supplement for war?
Four years ago today, we watched the U.S.-led coalition forces invade Iraq. To be honest, I can't remember where I was. The events of that date aren't etched in my mind as are those of September 11, 2001, or even the day Saddam's statue fell. What I do remember clearly are the reports from U.S. officials citing evidence that Iraq was planning to use chemical weapons against U.S. forces, Iraqi citizens and consequently the embedded journalists on the front.

At the beginning of this war, health and medical reporters were focused on the unknown terror of biological and chemical weapons. We prepared ourselves for attacks of botulism, smallpox, anthrax. We studied the difference between nerve agents such as sarin and blistering agents such as mustard gas. Four years ago, if you had asked me the size of a danger zone in a nuclear or biochemical attack with the wind blowing 20 miles to the west and sunny conditions, I could spit out the calculation as if it were a multiplication table.

Today, the conditions are much different for medical journalists. When it comes to the war in Iraq, our headlines focus on how the military has dealt with caring for its own for the past few years. I've interviewed young soldiers returning home who say they just aren't the same emotionally or physically. From combat medic training, to post-traumatic stress disorder to amputations to what's been called the signature injury of this war - traumatic brain injury, I've had the privilege of interviewing young servicemen and servicewomen both before and after their deployment.

In a broader sense, war has always been a time for incredible medical advances. By necessity, doctors are forced to innovate in the battlefield. They need to be more nimble and get the injured to care faster and more effectively. In many cases, trauma medicine feels the greatest impact of the war.

But just recently, a new Department of Defense-funded study focused on quercetin, a powerful anti-oxidant commonly found in apples, onions and black tea. The researchers found that quercetin could possibly help soldiers on the battlefield. The major findings found that after extreme exercise mimicking physical conditions in the field, quercetin could help fight off the common cold and could help improve mental vigilance. The study looked at 1,000 mg compared with the 25-50 mg eaten daily in the average American diet. The findings are promising, and more studies will be done before it will be recommended as a supplement to soldiers or civilians.

The study was funded under the Peak Soldier Performance Program. It's just one arm of the DOD's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The goal of many of its projects is to help soldiers fight better, stronger and longer.

Four years later, what do you think about the medical advances learned during the Iraq war? What do you think of government research dollars targeting improved soldier performance? In medical terms, what do you think is unique to this war?
Four years later, what do you think about the medical advances learned during the Iraq war? What do you think of government research dollars targeting improved soldier performance? In medical terms, what do you think is unique to this war?
Looking forward to seeing your SIU piece. Medical advances learned during the Iraq war seemed to be stagnant, I have heard more about advances in technology for weapons and humvees. I think alotting more government research dollars to improving soldiers is a great idea. It will not only attract more recruits it will in the long run save lives to soldiers who are on their 2nd or 3rd deployments. The most unique part of this war is the vast amount of lives we are able to save as compared to Vietnam. When someone was severely injured often times they were just left because had they received medical care they would have still died. The most promising and exciting parts of medicine is stem cell reasearch and biomedical research. Imagine being able to attach a new human leg to an amputee.
From what I've seen on CNN, the advances in battlefield medicine are incredible. Head injuries that would have been fatal, are being treated. They have a much better chance of survival now.
At least they are considering something natural versus some chemical enhancing drug. This will be safer for the soldiers, and hopefully offer some benefit. I'm amazed the government is actually thinking herbal!
I'd be willing on deployments to be strongly encouraged to try a supplement made from natural substances. If it had side effects I didn't like I could always stop it; I wouldn't want to be forced to take it, though.
I had not heard about the onions, apples and tea theory. Guess I'll be brushing my teeth more!

It seems like advances have been made in treating wounded soldiers, especially with the number of dirty bombs, suicide bombings, and such.

My hope is that advances be made on post-traumatic stress syndrome. We will have a whole new generation of soldiers-- they are already appearing-- who are in need of mental health care due to PTS. From reports I hear about the state of veteran health care in America, particularly around PTS, they are not getting adequate treatment.

As someone who works in a mental health field and sometimes sees Vietnam vets with serious mental disorders, I have deep concern that these Iraq veterans receive better treatment, up front and over the long haul.
I think the government should put more focus on what happens when these soldiers come home. I never thought our country would abandon its veterans they way they were abandoned after Vietnam. It's disappointing and angering to hear that Congress allocated $20 billion for 2007 Iraq victory celebrations, but wouldn't approve the entire budget the VA requested. What kind of priorities are those?

I feel there is somewhat of a witch-hunt going on right now with the VA because of what happened with Walter Reed, but that's not to say there aren't real problems with Congressional funding for veterans healthcare that can't keep being ignored.
More focus on treatment of post-traumatic stress syndrome. Ther is not enough being done to help these soldiers when they come home. They are all too often left to deal with the emotional scars of a war they fought with nothing more than a pat on the back and have a nice day to get them through the horrors of what they say and had to do. If they dare complain they are ignored and put on a waiting list. The government needs to do more.
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