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Military Nutrition Research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center

Congress mandated in the 1988 Department of Defense (DoD) appropriations bill that $3.5 million be allocated over three years by the Army to fund research programs at Louisiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC). Support for the Center was continued in 1992. The PBRC offers opportunities for research on nutrition as it relates to cancer and other chronic diseases, behavior, brain development, and obesity, and to findings at the molecular level. Of particular interest to the Army are issues that affect the nutritional status of Army personnel and their dependents during peacetime because of the overall interactive effects of food, diet, and nutrition on military readiness and preparedness.

The CMNR had been asked to review the research plans of the PBRC funded through the DoD appropriations and had submitted a letter report with their recommendations to the Army in June, 1989. In September, 1991 as the initial grant to the PBRC was nearing completion, the CMNR was asked to review the progress of the PBRC during the three year grant. This review resulted in a letter report that was submitted to the Army in May, 1992. The CMNR again visited the PBRC in June, 1992 to review new research plans as proposed by the PBRC for a renewal of their contract with the Army. The Committee on Military Nutrition Research's role at the meeting on June 3, 1992 was to assist the Army with identifying research activities that fell within the mandate of the appropriation. The responsibility for all decisions regarding



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Committee on Military Nutrition Research: Activity Report Military Nutrition Research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center Congress mandated in the 1988 Department of Defense (DoD) appropriations bill that $3.5 million be allocated over three years by the Army to fund research programs at Louisiana State University's Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC). Support for the Center was continued in 1992. The PBRC offers opportunities for research on nutrition as it relates to cancer and other chronic diseases, behavior, brain development, and obesity, and to findings at the molecular level. Of particular interest to the Army are issues that affect the nutritional status of Army personnel and their dependents during peacetime because of the overall interactive effects of food, diet, and nutrition on military readiness and preparedness. The CMNR had been asked to review the research plans of the PBRC funded through the DoD appropriations and had submitted a letter report with their recommendations to the Army in June, 1989. In September, 1991 as the initial grant to the PBRC was nearing completion, the CMNR was asked to review the progress of the PBRC during the three year grant. This review resulted in a letter report that was submitted to the Army in May, 1992. The CMNR again visited the PBRC in June, 1992 to review new research plans as proposed by the PBRC for a renewal of their contract with the Army. The Committee on Military Nutrition Research's role at the meeting on June 3, 1992 was to assist the Army with identifying research activities that fell within the mandate of the appropriation. The responsibility for all decisions regarding

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Committee on Military Nutrition Research: Activity Report the program remained with the Army. For this visit, the CMNR was asked to focus its attention on projects in the areas of neuroscience and menu modification. Summaries of the two letter reports that the CMNR submitted regarding the PBRC programs follow. The full text of the letter reports is included in Appendix C and Appendix D. REVIEW OF RESEARCH PROGRESS AT THE PENNINGTON BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH CENTER At the request of Colonel Eldon W. Askew, Ph.D., Chief, Military Nutrition Division, U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), the Committee on Military Nutrition Research (CMNR) met at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on September 19–20, 1991. The purpose of this meeting was to assist the Army in reviewing and evaluating the progress on work related to the U.S. Army grant to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center: “Effect of Food, Diet, and Nutrition on Military Readiness and Preparedness of Army Personnel and Dependents in a Peacetime Environment.” Several of the Committee members and the Committee Chair, Robert O. Nesheim, had participated in the earlier reviews of the PBRC programs and were particularly cognizant of changes in physical plant and research programs that had occurred. Prior to the meeting the CMNR reviewed an information paper provided by Colonel Askew and the final report by the grant principal investigator, Dr. Donna H. Ryan. The agenda for the meeting was planned by Dr. Ryan to provide the opportunity for presentation of research results and tour of the facilities, as well as time for the CMNR to meet in executive session to discuss their findings and draft their report. Findings The Committee remarked that the Pennington Biomedical Research Center was a very impressive facility having an excellent physical plant for laboratory and clinical research. The CMNR further commented on the considerable progress that had been achieved in staffing and development of research activities since their last visit on December 12, 1988. This has been made possible by financial support from the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and grants from the National Institutes of Health, and other sources. In addition, the state of Louisiana has provided ongoing support at a level of $4.1 million. The Committee commented that the vision and leadership of the newly appointed director of the PBRC, Dr. George Bray was clearly

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Committee on Military Nutrition Research: Activity Report evident in the impressive accomplishments of the Pennington Center in such a short time period. The Committee found that there was effective management support and guidance for the development of activities related to this grant through the leadership of the principal investigator, Dr. Donna H. Ryan. Conclusions and Recommendations The Committee on Military Nutrition Research reviewed the five projects supported by the grant and provided individual reviews of each area. These are detailed in the letter report (see Appendix C). Generally, the Committee was impressed with the quality of the research activities at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center given the constraints of essentially starting from a zero base in equipping the facilities, recruiting staff, and initiating research activities, and felt that the funds provided by the U.S. Army grant had been effectively deployed. The CMNR would encourage continued financial support by the U.S. Army of those activities which have been and can continue to be relevant to the military, namely the Clinical Research Laboratory and the stable isotope activity. Further, support of the area of nutrition and behavior should continue with attention to developing a project with greater focus and hence military relevance. It was the understanding of the CMNR that the Fort Polk Heart Smart Project had been completed, and that future funding was not planned under this program. The CMNR concurred with this position and also suggested that a thorough review of the results of this study and delineation of desired objectives, including inclusion of methodology to evaluate long-term outcomes, be conducted prior to consideration of implementation. The Committee described a number of limitations of the research progress on the menu modification project and concluded that this project, if continued, should be conducted in a military facility where the staff was more familiar with the military menu and procurement systems in order for a practical program to be developed. REVIEW OF THREE RESEARCH PROPOSALS FROM THE PENNINGTON BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH CENTER At the request of the COL Eldon W. Askew, Ph.D., Chief, Military Nutrition Division, USARIEM, who is Grant Officer Representative for the Army for CMNR, a subcommittee of the CMNR met at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on June 3, 1992. The purpose of this meeting was to assist the Army in discussing plans

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Committee on Military Nutrition Research: Activity Report for three projects that were proposed as part of USAMRDC Grant no. 17-92-V-2009 to the PBRC: “Military Nutrition Research: Six Tasks to Address Medical Factors Limiting Soldier Effectiveness.” The chair, Robert O. Nesheim, and members of the Committee who were either knowledgeable about the scientific areas addressed by the research proposals, or who had been involved in previous reviews of research at the PBRC, attended the meeting. Prior to the meeting, the CMNR reviewed: (1) preliminary research proposals prepared by the scientific staff and principal investigator, Dr. Donna Ryan; (2) an information paper and background materials, including the Grant Statement of Work, previously provided by COL Askew; (3) the final report on the previous USAMRDC Grant to the Pennington Center submitted by Dr. Ryan; and (4) two earlier reports prepared by the CMNR at the request of the USAMRDC reviewing this same research program in 1989 and 1992. The agenda for the meeting was arranged by Dr. Ryan to permit time for the scientists from the PBRC to orally present their research plans and for the CMNR to tour new laboratories at the Center. At the end of the meeting, the Committee met in executive session to discuss the presentations, review the written materials in more detail, and draft their report. Findings The Committee commented on the rapid expansion of facilities and staff of the PBRC under the leadership of Drs. George Bray and Donna Ryan. In the nine months between visits of the CMNR, the Center had continued to grow and provides an excellent environment for scientific study and research support services needed by the Army research programs. The Committee commended Drs. Bray and Ryan for their vision and leadership. Conclusions and Recommendations The Committee on Military Nutrition Research reviewed the three research proposals and provided specific comments on each project (see Appendix D). The CMNR expressed general concern about the lack of focus of the projects on the nutritional relevance to the military. The Committee also stated that the objectives and protocols of the projects required more specificity and detail in order to clearly present the research objectives and plans. This was particularly true for the clinical nutrition project, where the CMNR raised a number of questions about essential research protocols (see Appendix D). The CMNR found, however, that the two projects on basic and clinical nutritional neuroscience addressed high priority research questions and had the

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Committee on Military Nutrition Research: Activity Report potential for yielding scientifically unique and important insights having far reaching applications. The CMNR encouraged frequent communication between the scientific teams on these projects. In contrast, the CMNR voiced serious reservations about the staffing and scientific adequacy of the menu modification project proposal. The Committee had similarly commented on the limitation on the research progress in the menu modification project in their earlier report (see Appendix C) and continued to find serious difficulties with the new proposal. The CMNR further commented that the physical resources and overall staffing for the two neuroscience projects were well developed. The Committee suggested that periodic advice from nutrition research scientists, acting as consultants, who were trained in conducting human studies would further benefit the clinical neuroscience project. In general, the CMNR was favorably impressed with the proposals from the neuroscience groups. The Committee indicated that through guidance from Drs. Ryan and Bray these research plans could be further strengthened through the addition of details to the research protocols that indicated clear understanding of the complexity and practicality of the methods to be employed. The CMNR, however, seriously questioned the relevance and appropriateness of the menu modification project. * * * * * The full text of the CMNR letter reports, mentioned above, are included as Appendix C and Appendix D.

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