New multimodal intervention improves fitness and cognitive function



Researchers studied the effects of a 12-week exercise program on 148 active-duty Air Force Airmen, half of whom were also given a twice-daily nutritional drink containing protein; omega-3 fatty acid, DHA; lutein; phospholipids; Vitamin D; B vitamins and other micronutrients; with a muscle promoting compound known as HMB. Both groups improved their physical and cognitive functions, with additional gains in those who regularly consumed the nutritional drink, the team reports.

Results appear in the journal Scientific reports.

Participants were randomly assigned to the two groups. The exercise program combined strength training and high-intensity interval aerobic fitness challenges.

One group received the nutritional drink and the other consumed a placebo drink devoid of the added nutrients. Neither the researchers nor the participants knew who received the nutrient-fortified drink or the placebo.

The exercise intervention alone improved strength and endurance, mobility and stability, and participants also saw increases in several measures of cognitive function. They had better episodic memory and processed information more efficiently at the end of 12 weeks. And they did better on tests that required them to solve problems they had never encountered before, a skill called fluid intelligence.. “

Aron Barbey, Professor of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Barbey led the study with postdoctoral researcher Christopher Zwilling.

“Those who also consumed the nutritional supplement saw all of these improvements and more. For example, they were better able to retain new information in their working memory and had faster responses to fluid intelligence tests than they did. those who took the placebo, ”said Barbey.

Physical power increased in both groups as a result of physical training, Zwilling said.

“Power is a measure of physical fitness based on several factors, such as how fast a participant can pull a heavy sled a set distance, how far they can throw a weighted ball, and the number of push-ups, pull-ups or sit-ups. perform within a defined period of time, ”he said.

Physical training reduced participants’ body fat percentage and increased their oxygen uptake efficiency, or VO2 max. The airmen also performed better than they initially did on several measures of cognitive function. Most notable of these was an increase in the accuracy of their responses to problems designed to measure fluid intelligence.

“But we also wanted to know if taking the supplement conferred a benefit beyond the effect of exercise,” Zwilling said. “We have seen this to be the case, for example with regard to resting heart rate, which fell more in those who took the supplement than in those who did not.”

Participants who consumed the nutritional drink also saw greater improvements in their ability to remember and process information. And their reaction time to fluid intelligence tests improved more than their peers who took the placebo, the researchers found.

“Our work is driving the design of novel multimodal interventions that integrate both aerobic training and nutritional supplementation, and illustrate that their benefits go beyond improvements in fitness to improve several measures of cognitive function,” said declared Barbey.

The U. of I. led the intervention with study co-author Adam Strang, a scientist in the applied neuroscience branch of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, as well as his Air colleagues Force Research Laboratory.

The U. of I. also worked with a researcher and co-author of the Tapas Das study and colleagues at Abbott Nutrition, who led the design of the nutritional drink, which is a blend of nutrients targeting both muscles and the brain.

The specially designed ingredients for the drink that previous studies have shown are associated with improved physical cognitive function.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau

Journal reference:

Zwilling, CE, et al. (2020) Improved Physical and Cognitive Performance in Active-Duty Airmen: Evidence from a Randomized Multimodal Fitness and Nutrition Intervention. Scientific reports.



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