Monday, March 18, 2019

GWIRP-funded study finds elevated rates of 7 chronic health conditions in Gulf War Veterans

( – March 18, 2019) – Newly published results of a study of a large cohort of U.S. veterans of the 1991 Gulf War show a higher risk of numerous chronic health conditions, as compared to the general population.  The excess risk was linked to reported exposure to Gulf War chemical weapons or an experimental drug troops were forced to take without informed consent.  

Seven of nine surveyed conditions were shown to be at elevated risk among the veterans, including high blood pressure (HBP), high cholesterol, heart attack, diabetes, stroke, arthritis and chronic bronchitis.

For veterans reporting chemical weapons exposure, they showed higher risk of HBP, diabetes, arthritis, and chronic bronchitis. Those who reported taking pyridostigmine bromide (PB) nerve agent protective pills (NAPP’s), showed increased risk of heart attack and diabetes.

“Gulf War veterans are showing accelerated aging patterns resulting in more and earlier chronic medical conditions than the general population of civilians,” says study senior author Kimberly Sullivan, research assistant professor of environmental health. “There is precedent for this type of toxicant-induced disorder in veterans from other wars. For instance, many Vietnam veterans developed chronic conditions of high blood pressure, diabetes, and many types of cancers that were related to exposure to Agent Orange.”

Results also varied by sex. FDC males reported higher rates of the seven conditions compared to the control group, while female veterans showed an increased rate of diabetes but a diminished risk of HBP. During the Gulf War, 93 percent (93%) of U.S. troops were male, with seven percent (7%) female.

The new study built on previous research that found higher rates of numerous conditions among 1991 Gulf War veterans as compared to control populations: chronic multi-symptoms illness including Gulf War Illness (GWI), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and functional gastric disorders (FGID’s); neurologic conditions including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), brain cancer, repeated seizures, neuralgias and neuritis, and chronic migraine headaches; and other conditions including arthritis, various lung diseases, eye or vision problems, HBP, and heart disease.  

The study compared data from 448 U.S. veterans of the 1991 Gulf War from the Fort Devens cohort(FDC), including 47 female GWV’s, with a comparison group of 2,949 population-based 2013–2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) cohort.  The FDC has become one of the largest research cohorts of 1991 Gulf War veterans and the subject of numerous studies.

The study was funded by the Gulf War Illness Research Program (GWIRP), part of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) within the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Health Program.  Led by Dr. Maxine Krengel, with the publication authored byDr. Clara Zundeland overseen by Dr. Kimberly Sullivan, the team of researchers included scientists and clinicians from the Boston University (BU) Schools of Medicine (BUSM) and Public Health (BUSPH), the VA Boston Healthcare System, and the Medical College of Georgia.  

Dr. Steven Coughlin, the research team’s epidemiologist, was formerly chief epidemiologist for the VA. He resigned due to cited ethical concerns related to VA covering up adverse health findings among Gulf War and other veterans with toxic exposures.  As a result, hewas awarded the Research Integrity Award from the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology, and the Deployment Health Researcher of the Year Award from the Sergeant Sullivan Center in Washington, DC.  

The study, entitled, “Rates of Chronic Medical Conditions in 1991 Gulf War Veterans Compared to the General Population,” was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.  


CITATION AND LINK TO THE FULL STUDY:  Zundel, C.; Krengel, M.; Heeren, T.; Yee, M.; Grasso, C.; Janulewicz Lloyd, P.; Coughlin, S.; Sullivan, K., "Rates of Chronic Medical Conditions in 1991 Gulf War Veterans Compared to the General Population." Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(6), 949;


No comments: