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TABLE 3-1 Similarities and Dissimilarities Between Cold and High-Altitude Environments



Low ambient temperatures

Lower atmospheric oxygen tension at high altitude

Diuresis, at least initially

Usually greater anorexia and hypophagia at high altitude

Increased energy requirements for work

Fat tolerated well in the cold

Lack of water except for ice and snow

Fat not tolerated well at high altitude

Difficult to prepare food


Carbohydrate is tolerated well


Protein not particularly advantageous


Arctic Biology and Medicine: The Physiology of Work in Cold and High Altitude, at Fort Wainwright, Alaska (Helfferich, 1966). General Ross, the Yukon Commander, gave the welcoming address at this 1966 meeting of environmental physiologists, and his words regarding the military relevancy of cold and high-altitude research are as appropriate now, as then:

Military interest is expanding to areas that were once considered uninhabitable and forbidding, such as the Arctic. The geopolitical importance of the Arctic basin and the Arctic mountainous area necessitates much greater knowledge and special understanding of these areas…In light of the constantly changing military requirements, it is singularly important for us to understand the physiological responses and limits of man to these unusual stresses in order to utilize human capabilities maximally in the accomplishment of our military mission. It is also necessary for us to understand what measures can be taken to improve the functional capacity of military personnel in these adverse and hostile environments…(Helfferich, 1966, p. 1).


During the 1950s and 1960s there were a number of symposia or conferences on environmental physiology, usually sponsored or cosponsored by the U.S. Armed Services (Table 3-2). These excellent reviews of environmental medicine came to an end after the mid 1960s, perhaps due to a lack of military sponsorship. Their end also coincided with a gradual decline in the amount of contract funds available from the Armed Forces to support extramural research of this nature.

Historically, a significant proportion of environmental medicine research during the World War II and Korean War eras was conducted in government-supported civilian research institutions such as the Universities of Illinois, Minnesota, Washington, California, Hawaii, Colorado, and Alaska, and in the Fatigue Laboratory at Harvard University. In the 1970s and 1980s the emphasis began to shift from extramural to intramural research, and the Armed

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