Dietary Intake and Elevated C-Reactive Protein Levels in US Military Veterans
Elevated inflammatory markers, such as high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), have been associated with the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease (CVD)-related diseases. However, limited studies have evaluated the potential association between dietary consumption and hs-CRP levels in a large, nationally representative sample, and fewer have investigated their role in ethnic and racial minority military populations. The goal of this study is to explore the relationship between dietary intake, health behaviors, and hs-CRP in individuals with prior military status and whether these associations differ by race/ethnicity. A complex, multistage, probability sample design was used from the National Health and Nutrition Examination (NHANES) 2015–2018 waves. Our results indicate that previously deployed military service members had a higher prevalence of clinically elevated hs-CRP levels than civilians. Differences in hs-CRP among deployed veterans and civilians remained even after multivariable adjustment. Individuals classified as overweight and obese demonstrated clinically elevated hs-CRP levels compared with those with a normal body mass index (BMI). Dietary factors did not attenuate the association between changes in hs-CRP levels and veteran status. These findings suggest the need for further investigation into how military-specific stressors contribute to unfavorable health outcomes for the military population.