A rigorous scientific study found out what any grunt knows after just two weeks in the field: MREs make it hard to take a shit.
The revelation was first published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, which detailed how a group of 60 people — after four dropped out for reasons ranging from gastrointestinal distress to not sticking to the study protocol, which is less than shocking — were broken into two cohorts: One continued to eat regularly during the 21-day experiment; while the other ate nothing but MREs during the study.
The participants, both military personnel and civilians, kept daily food logs, and forked over fecal, urine and blood samples so researchers could study their respective diet's impact on their intestinal health. The data was then analyzed over a two year period from 2015-2017 by researchers with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine.
The results were less than shocking: Those who ate nothing but MREs for 21 days straight had about one less bowel movement a week, at least at the start of the study.
What is surprising, in light of how much shit MREs take, is that they don't actually cause any problems for your gut, just that they tend to back you up. Which, again, for anyone who's eaten them for an extended period of time, already knew.
Here's how it's explained in the awfully scientific report:
In this study, consuming a diet comprised solely of the unique, commercially sterile and highly processed ration for 21-day altered gut microbiota composition, did not increase or inflammation, and did not result in clinically meaningful gastrointestinal symptoms when compared to typical American diets. These findings do not provide evidence to suggest that either the Meal, Ready-to-Eat ration itself or its effects on the gut microbiota promote decrements in gastrointestinal health and function in individuals consuming the ration for up to 21 days.
The reason why MREs may make it harder to drop a deuce is that they don't provide a lot of the good bacteria that we typically get from fresh foods, like fruit, or fermented ones, like yogurt or cheeses — which I guess means that jalapeno cheese doesn't count.
"It's not MREs underlying a lot of anecdotal reports of gastrointestinal discomfort," Dr. J. Philip Karl, a scientist and research dietitian with the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, and the lead author of the study told Stars and Stripes. "The MRE actually provides more fiber and more of several vitamins and minerals compared to people's typical diets.
"I think MREs get a bad rap," he added.
Though the report does leave some lingering questions: Did they track the impact of a 21-day MRE diet on those who share a living space with the participant, for one? Say what you will about MRE-shits — MRE farts are practically a war crime.