Caffeinated gum keeps Israeli pilots, commandos alert
Jerusalem, May 18 (IANS) The Israeli army is supplying aviators and special operations forces a caffeine-charged chewing gum that dramatically enhances their ability to cope with fatigue on long missions, the Yediot Aharonot daily reported.
The "Stay Alert" gum, a food supplement, was developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in conjunction with the Wrigley's company, as part of ongoing efforts to curb fatigue-related injuries and deaths, said Xinhua.
The US military in recent years integrated the gum into the "First Strike Rations" it issued to field units on high-intensity combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, alongside other foodstuffs designed to increase vigilance and endurance.
Prior to the gum's introduction, soldiers made it a habit to chew on freeze-dried coffee to stay awake during night operations.
Ever since the Israelis started chewing it a year ago, the gum has been regularly issued to pilots and members of elite units tasked with missions that last more than 48 consecutive hours, according to Yediot.
A standard pack holds five cinnamon-flavoured pieces that contain 100 milligram of caffeine each, an amount equivalent to a tall espresso cup, though the gum version absorbs in the circulatory system five times faster.
"There are no side effects, except for the disgusting taste. It improves the soldiers' alertness and their cognitive performance. The pilots are amazed to discover that it simply works," a senior Israel Air Force officer told Yediot.
Despite their satisfaction with the gum's performance, the Israelis are not taking a chance. Troops sent on 72-hour missions are issued Modafinil, a prescription drug for treating an assortment of sleep disorders.
While the gum was originally developed for military applications, it has since made its way into the civilian market, and is particularly popular among athletes, clubgoers and people working graveyard shifts.
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