Obesity poses serious threat to US military readiness, study warns

PHILADELPHIA CREAM – Obesity is now putting the world at risk – by threatening the readiness of the US military, according to a team of nutritionists.

Researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine say the rise in the number of overweight people limits the number of recruits available for military service and affects mission readiness.

“This is a complex issue that has a profound impact on national security by limiting the number of recruits available, decreasing re-enlistment applications and potentially reducing mission readiness,” the official said. lead author, Dr. Sara Police, in a press release.

“Other relevant issues include shifting demographics in the military and food insecurity for military families.”

Obesity is recognized as a public health crisis with serious medical and economic consequences. The CDC estimates that nearly 42% of all American adults over the age of 20 now classify themselves as obese.

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A link between health and national security was first identified in 1946 after World War II. The National School Lunch Program targeted malnutrition. During the war, food rationing meant daily calories were restricted. Today, the reverse is happening. Products high in fat and sugar and increased portion sizes are readily available, resulting in a bulging waistline.

Since 1960, the number of men and women otherwise eligible for enlistment has dropped, with those exceeding body fat percentage standards doubling and tripling, respectively. The crisis has prompted military leaders to call for changes in nutritional and dietary habits.

These changes include initiatives in schools to eliminate less healthy food options and increase the use of free and reduced-price lunch programs. Nutrition education within armies is another solution.

“Drill Sergeants are essential and important leaders in the armed forces for coaching, advising, mentoring and training new soldiers,” says Dr. Police. “This perspective builds on previous studies illustrating that accurate nutritional information and behavioral modeling could strongly influence recruits.”

“Other leaders, including commanders and NCOs, also play critical roles in disseminating information and modeling behavior and could have a continuing impact on soldiers beyond basic training. “, adds co-author Nicole Ruppert.

Food insecurity in the army is also a problem

The changing demographics of today’s base training regiments include a greater percentage of women and people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. However, the researchers say these are groups that experience a higher rate of obesity and food insecurity. They explain that unreliable access to fresh fruits and vegetables can lead to both weight issues and mental health issues. This further threatens to retain recruits and fit them for missions around the world.

“Despite the efforts of the US government and the Department of Defense, obesity continues to impact the military and the national security risk is great,” concludes Dr. Police. “Research to uncover best practices will take into account the growing diversity within the armed forces, the importance of access to healthy food, and the ability to support nutrition education through thought leadership.”

The conclusions are published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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