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Medical News & Perspectives
March 10, 1999

Brew It or Chew It? Military Seeks Ways to Caffeinate

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JAMA. 1999;281(10):885-886. doi:10.1001/jama.281.10.885-JMN0310-3-1

WASHINGTON—Battlefields once quieted down after dark, but no longer. Night vision technology, refined over the past two decades, lets wars rage around the clock. "Modern warfare pushes the limits of human performance," noted Col David Penetar, PhD, of the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Mass. Sleep disruption, coupled with heavy physical demands, he said, may impair critical decision-making and other cognitive skills.

The role of caffeine in countering such decrements and new ways to deliver this drug were the focus of a 2-day meeting at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) last month. Speakers addressed the Committee on Military Nutrition Research of the NAS Food and Nutrition Board, which will advise the US Department of Defense on applying research findings. Caffeine studies also hold implications for civilian life, for physicians on call, pilots, truckers, rescue workers, and perhaps even for the sleep-deprived general public.