November 10, 2001
Military Losing War on Fat
The U.S. military faces a
significant loss of highly trained personnel which could affect its combat
readiness unless it wins the war on fat, according to a study discussed here
today at a national conference on obesity. The study finds that 54 percent
of military personnel are overweight. More than twice as many men than women
-- 58.6 percent and 26.1 percent, respectively -- are tipping the scales
past the military guidelines.
"This shows the Armed Forces are not immune from the obesity epidemic
sweeping this country," says the study's author, Richard Atkinson, M.D.,
professor of medicine and nutritional sciences at the University of
Wisconsin, and president of the American Obesity Association. "It's time we
recognize obesity as a chronic disease and dedicate federal resources into
research and effective treatment programs."
The military's weight problem has grown significantly in recent years. The
number of overweight men increased from 54.1 percent in 1995 to 58.6 percent
in 1998. Overweight women also increased from 21.6 in 1995 to 26.1 in 1998.
The weight problem is highest in the Navy and lowest in the Marines.
Dr. Atkinson says advancing age in the Armed Forces is a major contributing
factor to the military's weight problem. The extra pounds have contributed
to some loss of performance and endurance, and has had a significant effect
on injury rate.
"I'm concerned that the epidemic of obesity in the civilian population may
adversely affect the pool of potential recruits for the services," concludes
Obesity: The Public Health Conference on Nov. 8-9 in Washington is a
national conference for public health officials, policy leaders and
physicians to hear about the latest developments in the causes, prevention
and treatment of obesity, the second leading cause of preventable death in