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Defense Department data showed that 68% of active-duty military members are overweight or obese, with numbers even skyrocketing regarding eating disorders in the last decade, a nonprofit found.
The report, commissioned by the American Security Project, found that over one-third of service members are in the overweight or obese categories. This was listed as the leading disqualifier for military applicants, as well as being the primary reason for injuries during service or medical discharges.
The obesity category has more than doubled in the previous decade, as well. In 2012, the rate was 10.4%, but it jumped to 21.6% for 2022.
Calculations are compiled using the standard body mass index, which tends to underestimate obesity when compared to more advanced systems, the Military Times reported. The study suggested that the those with a high BMI need to be passed on to doctors who specifically treat obesity.
Other issues related to BMI may be a bit more surprising, as the American Medical Association announced in June 2023 that it had updated its policy regarding the BMI. The organization acknowledged “historical harm” and “racist exclusion” associated with the index, because "BMI is based primarily on data collected from previous generations of non-Hispanic white populations.”
The study recommended that the military elements track visceral fat, body adiposity index, body composition, relative fat mass, waist circumference, and genetic/metabolic factors.
The report also noted that "pre-accession weight loss programs" have helped the armed forces reach enlistment goals, despite the recruiting crisis. Such programs often include applicants taking part in an on-base fitness program, which helps the recruits reach the target weight required for basic training.
These programs sometimes pay recruits the same salary they would if they were entry-level soldiers.
“At a time when we are struggling to recruit an adequate labor force for the military, the growing rates of obesity are especially alarming,” said Matthew Wallin, chief operating officer of the American Security Project. “No person defending our country should find themselves unsupported and unequipped to fight a personal battle against obesity.”
In addition to body mass issues, eating disorders are also on a sharp rise in the armed forces. Such disorders increased by nearly 80% between 2017 and 2021.
The American Security Project is a nonprofit that has described itself as a "nonpartisan organization created to educate the American public and the world about the changing nature of national security in the 21st Century."
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