Compared to the U.S. civilian population, the rate of overweight troops is far smaller at just under 8 percent compared to roughly 70 percent of the adult American population that is clinically overweight or obese, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. While the military may be reflecting the nation’s broader population, whose poor eating habits are fueling an alarming rise obesity rates, obesity can be a life-and-death issue on the battlefield. Overweight troops may not move as quickly in ground combat, making them easier targets. And if they are wounded, it is more difficult for their buddies to pull them to safety. If Pentagon health officials are rewriting forcewide guidelines for body composition standards, one has to wonder when if the USDA should overhaul its “food pyramid” as part of a larger nutritional overhaul
For the first time in years, the Pentagon has disclosed data indicating the number of troops its deems overweight, raising big questions about the health, fitness and readiness of today’s force.
About 7.8 percent of the military — roughly one in every 13 troops — is clinically overweight, defined by a body mass-index greater than 25. This rate has crept upward since 2001, when it was just 1.6 percent, or one in 60, according to Defense Department data obtained by Military Times. And it’s highest among women, blacks, Hispanics and older service members.