ANZAC rations nutritionally deficent – study

WWI soldiers serving in the trenches of  Gallipoli may have suffered scurvy and other illnesses due nutritionally deficient rations, according to new research.

A tin of ‘bully beef’, a typical ration for WWI soldiers.

“An army marches on it stomach.”

This famous quote from Napoleon Bonaparte was not lost on researchers analysing rations supplied to Kiwi soldiers almost a century ago.

In a new study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, researchers from the University of Otago and Massey University drew on historical documents to estimate the dietary intake of Kiwi soldiers  serving in the World War I military campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. Their results show that the basic rations supplied to soldiers during the campaign were woefully inadequate.

“We found that the rations consisting largely of bully beef, biscuits and jam were low in vitamins A, C and E, potassium, selenium, and dietary fibre,” says Associate Professor Nick Wilson from the University of Otago, Wellington, who led the research. “These deficits are likely to have caused cases of scurvy and may have contributed to the high rates of other illnesses experienced at Gallipoli.”

With benefit of hindsight and almost 100 years of nutritional research, the authors suggested an optimised diet of bread, flour, cheese, rolled oats, dried peas and canned tomatoes would have been far better. These rations would meet all basic nutritional requirements, were available as canned and dried foods in 1915, would cost half as much as the standard rations and weight about the same.

You can read more about the research in a media release from the University of Otago.

The research comes less than a week ahead of ANZAC day, the national day of remembrance for New Zealand and Australia and the anniversary of troops landing at Gallipoli.

The study has been covered in the media. Examples include:

3 News: Gallipoli rations vitamin deficient
Radio New Zealand: Poor food for Gallipoli troops caused illness – study
Dominion Post: Diet did Anzacs no favours
Newstalk ZB: Gallipoli military rations may have contributed to scurvy t