Nearly 7 in 10 U.S. service members are considered either overweight or obese, according to a recent study, which said the statistic highlights a significant challenge that could profoundly impact national security.
The American Security Project, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, assessed the body mass index of U.S. troops, reported the New York Post, and found 68% of them fall into the categories of "overweight" or "obese" under BMI criteria, reflecting a troubling trend that has taken shape over the past decade.
The study revealed that the number of troops categorized as "obese" has "more than doubled" over the past decade, surging from "10.4% in 2012" to "21.6%" in the most recent year.
The report highlights the "dire threat" the trend poses.
"To ensure the long-term strength and operability of the armed forces," the report stated, "services must decisively and cohesively address obesity within their ranks, maintain strong body composition standards, and bring health policies in line with evidence-based recommendations.
"Identifying, diagnosing, and treating obesity within soldiers at the front lines of our national defense may ultimately determine the long-term survival of the force. It may not be easy, but it is long overdue."
The military services have their own "minimum body composition standards" for recruits, and obesity is the primary disqualifier of military applicants. Meanwhile, Stars and Stripes reported, Pentagon data reveals that less than a quarter of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 meet academical and physical requirements to serve in the military, exacerbating the recruitment deficit.
Furthermore, obesity is a "primary contributor to in-service injuries and medical discharges."
Top military officials reported to Congress in April that the Army, Navy, and Air Force will not meet their enlistment targets this year.
The Army fell short by about 15,000 soldiers in 2022, Roll Call reported, improving in fiscal year 2023 with nearly 55,000 recruits. The Air Force missed its target by nearly 2,700 recruits, and the Navy fell short by 7,450 recruits.
The report underscores the importance of including BMI figures in recruiting and retention reports sent to Congress, emphasizing that "by adequately screening for obesity, military services can develop proactive measures to address obesity." It posits that early screenings for obesity-related health conditions could lead to sustained weight loss, improved health outcomes, and reduced healthcare costs.
This shift in perspective aligns with the American Medical Association's updated policies on BMI, as reported by the Post. The AMA, recognizing the "historical harm" and "racist exclusion" embedded in BMI calculations primarily based on data from non-Hispanic whites, now recommends using BMI as just one measure of body composition.
The AMA advocates for a holistic approach, combining BMI with other valid risk measures, such as visceral fat, body composition, and waist circumference, and considering genetic and metabolic factors.
Jim Thomas ✉
Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.
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