Barringer, Nicholas D (2015-05). Fatty Acid Blood Levels, Vitamin D Status, and Physical Performance and Its Relationship to Resiliency and Mood in Active Duty Soldiers. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon


  • The mental health of soldiers is a growing concern as rates of depression and suicide have increased in soldiers with recently more deaths attributed to suicide than deaths due to combat in Afghanistan in 2012. Previous research has demonstrated the potential for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), vitamin D, physical activity, and physical fitness to improve and arachidonic acid (AA) to threaten depression/quality of life scores. This study examined whether blood fatty acid levels, vitamin D status and/or physical activity are associated with physical fitness scores, measures of mood, and measures of resiliency in active duty soldiers. 100 active duty males at Fort Hood, TX underwent a battery of psychometric tests, anthropometric, fitness tests, and donated fasting blood samples. Pearson bivariate correlation analysis revealed significant correlations among psychometric tests, anthropometric, physical performance, reported physical inactivity (sitting time), and fatty acid and vitamin D blood levels. Categorical analysis revealed significant difference in levels of fatty acids and vitamin D, anthropometric, physical performance, and psychometric measures. Based on these findings, a regression equation was developed to predict a depressed mood status as determined by the Patient Health Questionnaire-9. The equation accurately predicted 80% of our participants with a sensitivity of 76.9% and a specificity of 80.5%. Results indicate that lack of physical activity and fitness, high levels of AA and low levels of EPA, DHA, and vitamin D could increase the risk of depressed mood and that use of a regression equation may be helpful in identifying soldiers at higher risk for possible intervention. Future studies should evaluate the impact of exercise and diet interventions as a means of improving resiliency and reducing depressed mood in soldiers.

publication date

  • May 2015