The growing rate of obesity in young Americans could undermine the future of the United States military, as many potential recruits are too overweight to join, two retired generals stated on Friday.
In a commentary written by retired generals John Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, two former chairs of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff said: “Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military.”
The commentary, which appeared in the Washington Post, said that recruits were disqualified from possible service for obesity far more than for any other reason.
“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,” the commanders said in the commentary.
The two generals are part of a non-profit group of retired generals, called “Mission: Readiness”.
The group is urging Congress to adopt legislation that would ensure better nutrition in schools. They want children to be offered more vegetables, fruits and whole grains while cutting back on foods that are high in sugar, sodium and fats.
One in three American children are affected by obesity.
A study released in March found that American children are becoming very obese at younger ages, putting them at increased risk of shortened life spans, and many suffering old-age illnesses by the time they are in their 20s.
It’s not just children either. The military is facing problems with troops already serving who are becoming overweight. Many lose out on promotions due to failure to maintain fitness standards. Some are even threatened by discharge if they cannot control their weight.
The retired generals approved a plan by President Obama’s administration to increase funding by one billion dollars over a ten year period for nutrition in schools. The investment plan makes sense as the country already spends 75 billion dollars per year on medical costs due to obesity, they said.
Based on data from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the commentary said that the number of potential recruits who flunked their physical tests due to obesity has risen almost 70 percent since 1995.
Legislation was passed in 1946 on a similar scale. Military leaders at the time recognized that poor nutrition in schools 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.”
Source: RedOrbit Staff & Wire Reports