Fat Americans pose a threat to national security

Increasing rates of obesity among young Americans could undermine the future of the US military, with potential recruits increasingly too fat to serve, two retired generals said on Friday.

"Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military," generals John Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, both former chairs of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a commentary.

Obesity disqualified more potential recruits for military service than any other medical factor, the two former commanders wrote in the Washington Post.

The two generals urged Congress to adopt legislation that would ensure better nutrition in schools, offering children more vegetables, fruits and whole grains while cutting back on foods with high sugar, sodium and fat content.

"We consider this problem so serious from a national security perspective that we have joined more than 130 other retired generals, admirals and senior military leaders in calling on Congress to pass new child nutrition legislation," wrote the commanders, part of a non-profit group called "Mission: Readiness."

The warning came amid growing concern that childhood obesity has turned into an "epidemic," affecting a staggering one in three American youngsters.

A study released in March warned more American children are becoming extremely obese at a younger age, putting them at risk of dying decades younger than normal-weight children and of suffering old-age illnesses in their 20s.

The US military also faces a problem with troops already serving who are overweight, with some soldiers losing out on promotions because of their failure to meet fitness standards.

Although the military enjoyed record-breaking recruitment levels last year, officials say the growing problem of obesity could present a serious problem for recruitment efforts over time.

The two retired generals endorsed a plan by President Barack Obama's administration to increase funding by one billion dollars a year over ten years for child nutrition programs.

Investing in nutrition made sense as the country was already spending 75 billion dollars a year on medical costs associated with obesity, they said.

Citing figures from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the commentary said the proportion of potential recruits who flunked their physical tests because they were overweight has jumped nearly 70 percent since 1995.

Shalikashvili, who led the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1993 to 1997, and Shelton, who held the same post from 1997 to 2001, cited school lunch legislation passed in 1946 as a model.

Military leaders at the time recognized that poor nutrition reduced the pool of qualified candidates for the armed forces, they said.

"We must act, as we did after World War II, to ensure that our children can one day defend our country, if need be."

ddl/ao

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Plant Fitter - Construction Industry

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This well established construction equipment d...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitm...

    Recruitment Genius: Factory Operatives

    £7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer ba...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003