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Using Tactical Nutrition to save first responders – KOSU

Posted: October 14, 2021 at 1:56 am

OSU Research Matters is a bi-weekly look inside the work of Oklahoma State University faculty, staff and students.

In this episode, Dr. Kenneth Sewell the school's Vice President of Research talks with Dr. Jill Joyce about how her tactical nutrition research benefits first responders.


Dr. Joyce: Tactical Nutrition, for me you're kind of probably wondering where that tactical comes from. It comes from tactical athletes or tactical populations. And these are your first responders and your military personnel. Firefighters, law enforcement officers and then, Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines. Those are your tactical athletes.

And we call them athletes because they have to do things that athletes have to do. They have to sprint, run long distances, drag, carry, lift, climb, all those sorts of things.

Dr. Sewell: So, from a nutritional perspective. What are the problems that those tactical professions share?

Dr. Joyce: We think of them as athletes, however, they tend to have a lot of extra physical and emotional stressors from the job. So they have a lot of physical health problems, at least on my side of things, the physical health problems, and that would be cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even overweight and obesity.

Dr. Sewell: You're adopting a particular approach to try to intervene with this group. And, then planning to test that. So, what are you devising? How are you trying to be helpful to these populations?

Dr. Joyce: Good question. So, my background is public health nutrition. So I take a public health approach, where instead of working with individuals, I create interventions or programs for large groups of people. For instance, a fire department or a law enforcement department, or a military unit.

I'm particularly trying to do that using electronic medium like websites because each department has a fitness trainer or a wellness coordinator. And if we create these theory-based, and evidence-based, aka, really truly effective programs to improve nutrition or performance, then these individuals embedded within the departments who really have the trust of the unit can deliver my program, and it can be very effective.

Dr. Sewell: Sounds like almost using extension agents to get that scientific approach or evidence-based approach in play.

Dr. Joyce: Absolutely. We're translating kind of more, what we call bench science or clinical science into disease prevention, health promotion, and even performance promotion programs.

And you're right. It's the university creating the program, translating the science, handing it off to the "educator" that's embedded in the department just like educators in the county, and we're even using extension's website Canvas Catalog to do so. So very much working with extension a lot.

Dr. Sewell: Of course, you're basing this on the scientific methods, scientific approaches to nutrition, but it sounds like you're still going to test it. You're going to still see what its effects are. How do you go about doing that?

Dr. Joyce: On my side of things, I do a lot of asking questions about for instance, what did you eat in a day? So I can figure out the nutrients that you're eating, the types of food groups that you're eating. And I can even give you a score. We call it dietary quality, but it's like out of a hundred kind of like a percentage grade that you get in class. And I can tell you how healthy you're eating, so I can see if that improves.

Dr. Sewell: This is Kenneth Sewell, the vice-president for research at OSU with OSU Research Matters.

Dr. Sewell and Dr. Joyce will be speaking more in depth on Tactical Fitness and Nutrition at 'Research On Tap' Monday, October 18th at Iron Monk Brewery in Stillwater. The informal discussion is open to the public and starts at 5:30 p.m. More information can be found at research.okstate.edu/rot.

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Using Tactical Nutrition to save first responders - KOSU

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