Main content area

Food choices and health during military service: increases in sugar- and fibre-containing foods and changes in anthropometric and clinical risk factors

Bingham, Clarissa M L, Lahti-Koski, Marjaana, Absetz, Pilvikki, Puukka, Pauli, Kinnunen, Marja, Pihlajamäki, Harri, Sahi, Timo, Uutela, Antti, Jallinoja, Piia
Public health nutrition 2012 v.15 no.7 pp. 1248-1255
blood glucose, blood lipids, body composition, body mass index, cohort studies, data collection, fat body, food choices, food intake, foods, glucose, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, men, muscles, questionnaires, risk factors, systolic blood pressure, waist circumference, Finland
ObjectiveTo analyse changes in food choices, diet-related risk factors and their association during 6 months of military service.DesignLongitudinal cohort study in Finland, where all men are liable to military service and a clear majority of each age group completes service. Dietary intake data were collected by self-administered questionnaire before and at 6 months of service. Three dietary indices based on food frequencies were developed to characterize the diet: Sugar Index, Fibre Index and Fat Index. Thirteen diet-related risk factors were measured at the beginning and at 6 months of service.SettingMilitary environment, two geographically distinct garrisons.SubjectsMale conscripts aged 18–21 years (n 256) performing military service.ResultsDuring 6 months of service, positive changes concerned more frequent use of fibre-rich foods (P = 0·011), improved body composition (BMI, waist circumference, muscle mass, fat mass and percentage body fat, P ≤ 0·003 for all), decreased systolic blood pressure and increased HDL cholesterol (P < 0·001 for both). Negative changes concerned more frequent use of sugar-rich foods and increased total cholesterol, TAG and blood glucose (P < 0·001 for all). The consumption of fibre-rich foods was inversely associated with anthropometric risk factors at baseline and with sugar-rich foods at both time points.ConclusionsDespite more frequent consumption of sweet foods, military service with a unified, nutritionally planned diet, a controlled environment and high physical load has a positive effect on conscripts’ health risk factors. The negative changes in blood lipids and glucose may reflect more varied free-time eating.