Examining the Relationship Between Healthy Eating Score and ACFT Performance in Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Cadets Original Research

Main Article Content

Aleksandra Mantanona
Joetta Khan
Julianna Jayne
Andrew Gallucci
LesLee Funderburk
William Conkright
Patrick Clifford
Rodney Sturdivant
Jeffrey Forsse
Jeffery L. Heileson


Physical performance, Military Readiness, Diet


Introduction: Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets must maintain military readiness by meeting physical fitness standards and passing the newly implemented Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT). Prior research established a positive relationship between nutrition and performance, however the relationship between diet and ACFT performance has not been studied. This study aimed to examine the relationship between diet quality and ACFT performance in cadets. 

Methods:  ROTC cadets (n=52) completed the Healthy Eating Score-7 (HES-7) and an ACFT. HES-7 is a proxy for diet quality and scored between 0 and 35. The ACFT is a measure of performance with a maximum score of 600. The association of HES-7 score with total ACFT score was evaluated using multiple linear regression analysis. Models adjusted for body mass and physical activity as potential confounders. Statistical significance was set at p ≤ 0.05.

Results: The average scores for ACFT and HES-7 were 485.5±71.5 and 19.7±5.2 points, respectively. There was no significant association between HES-7 and ACFT (r=-0.213, p=0.088). The final regression model included HES, physical activity time, and body mass, and explained 10.4% of the variance in the ACFT score.

Conclusions: Favorable dietary habits assessed by HES-7 were not associated with physical performance.

Abstract 433 | PDF Downloads 212 PodScholars Audio Downloads 0


1. Purvis DL, Lentino CV, Jackson TK, Murphy KJ, Deuster PA. Nutrition as a component of the performance triad: how healthy eating behaviors contribute to soldier performance and military readiness. US Army Med Dep J. 2013:66-78.
2. Daniels E, Hanson J. Energy-Adjusted Dietary Intakes Are Associated with Perceived Barriers to Healthy Eating but Not Food Insecurity or Sports Nutrition Knowledge in a Pilot Study of ROTC Cadets. Nutrients. 2021;13(9):3053. doi:10.3390/nu13093053
3. Brauman K, Achen RM, Barnes JL. Perceived Dietary Quality and Habits of Collegiate Student-Athletes. JEN. 2020;3(3). https://www.journalofexerciseandnutrition.com. Accessed July 1, 2023.
4. Lowry R, Galuska DA, Fulton JE, Wechsler H, Kann L, Collins JL. Physical activity, food choice, and weight management goals and practices among US college students. Am J Prev Med. 2000;18(1):18-27. doi:10.1016/s0749-3797(99)00107-5
5. Farina EK, Thompson LA, Knapik JJ, Pasiakos SM, Lieberman HR, McClung JP. Diet Quality Is Associated with Physical Performance and Special Forces Selection. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2020;52(1):178-186. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000002111
6. Jayne JM, Karl JP, McGraw SM, O’Connor K, DiChiara AJ, Cole RE. Eating Behaviors Are Associated With Physical Fitness and Body Composition Among US Army Soldiers. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2021;53(6):480-488. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2021.01.013
7. Cobo-Cuenca AI, Garrido-Miguel M, Soriano-Cano A, Ferri-Morales A, Martínez-Vizcaíno V, Martín-Espinosa NM. Adherence to the Mediterranean Diet and Its Association with Body Composition and Physical Fitness in Spanish University Students. Nutrients. 2019;11(11):2830. doi:10.3390/nu11112830
8. Heileson JL, McGowen JM, Moris JM, et al. Body Composition, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, and Vitamin D are Associated with Army Combat Fitness Test Performance. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2022;19(1):349-365. doi:10.1080/15502783.2022.2094717
9. Dyal RN, Deschamps BA, McGraw SM, Jayne JM, Karl JP, Cole RE. Healthy Eating Score-7 as a Measure of Diet Quality in a Military Population. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2022;54(5):455-464. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2021.09.019