IDF’s latest weapon against battle fatigue? Chewing gum

The gum, which contains caffeine, is under consideration as a food that could be consumed by pilots, combat soldiers to help them remain sharp.

January 6, 2011 01:35
1 minute read.
Chewing Gum

Chewing Gum 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The IDF has come up with a new life-saving weapon to ensure that soldiers remain alert and effective on the battlefield.

No, it is not a missile, gun or piece of armor. It is something much smaller: a piece of chewing gum.

The gum, which contains caffeine, is under consideration as a food that could be consumed by pilots and combat soldiers to help them remain sharp during lengthy flights and missions.

“People need to stay awake for a long time, and the problem is not just how to keep them awake, but also how to retain a high level of effectiveness,” a senior IDF medical officer said on Wednesday.

The IDF decided several months ago to conduct a feasibility study of different types of gum that contain caffeine, in an effort to improve the capabilities of soldiers and pilots on the battlefield, according to the officer. It recently gave the gum to troops from the Paratroopers Brigade during an exercise in the North.

In 1999, the US Congress allocated $250,000 for a study on the effect chewing gum could have on troops. Until then, caffeine was absorbed into the body by a liquid or pill, but researchers found that the chewing gum could also be effective.

One gum, called Stay Alert, carries a 100-mg. dose of caffeine, similar in quantity to about 6 ounces of brewed coffee. More than 85 percent of the caffeine is absorbed by the body after just a few minutes of chewing.

Another stimulant that the IDF is testing is called Modafinil, which has been used by several militaries to maintain troop alertness during complicated operations like the British war in the Falklands. The US Air Force also used the stimulant for pilots who participated in the Libyan air strikes in the 1980s.

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