Effect of military deployment on diabetes mellitus in air force personnel

Irene Folaron, Mark W. True, Jana L. Wardian, Tom J. Sauerwein, Alan Sim, Joshua M. Tate, Alexander G. Rittel, Lee Ann Zarzabal, Sky D. Graybill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction: Military deployments relocate service members to austere locations with limited medical capabilities, raising uncertainties whether members with diabetes can participate safely. Military regulations require a medical clearance for service members with diabetes prior to deployment, but there is a dearth of data that can guide the provider in this decision. To alleviate the lack of evidence in this area, we analyzed the change in glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) and body mass index (BMI) before and after a deployment among active duty U.S. Air Force personnel who deployed with diabetes. Materials and Methods: A retrospective analysis was conducted using HbA1c and BMI values obtained within 3 mo before and within 3 mo after repatriation from a deployment of at least 90 d between January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2014. The study population consisted of 103 and 195 subjects who had an available pre- A nd post-deployment HbA1c and BMI values, respectively. Paired t-tests were conducted to determine significant differences in HbA1C and BMI values. Results: The majority (73.8%) of members had a HbA1c <7.0% (53 mmol/mol) prior to deployment. For the overall population, HbA1c before and after deployment decreased from 6.7% (50 mmol/mol) to 6.5% (40 mmol/mol) (p = 0.03). Subgroup analysis demonstrated a significant decline in HbA1c among males, those aged 31-40 yr, and those with a pre-deployment HbA1c of >7%. BMI declined for the overall population (28.3 kg/m2 vs. 27.7 kg/m2, p < 0.0001) and for most of the subgroups. Conclusion: Air Force service members who deployed with diabetes, including those with a HbA1c > 7%, experienced a statistically significant improvement in HbA1c and BMI upon repatriation. A prospective study design in the future can better reconcile the effect of a military deployment on a more comprehensive array of diabetes parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberusy050
Pages (from-to)E603-E609
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - 5 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • body mass index
  • deploymen
  • diabetes
  • military


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