WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Weight Watchers International, Inc. and National Journal today convened a policy summit to examine the growing national security threat posed by a shrinking pool of Americans lean enough to serve in the military.
A Cornell University study found at a time when U.S. forces are stretched thin overseas, obesity is the leading medical disqualifier for military service.
Some 27 percent of potential recruits between the ages of 17-24 would weigh too much to qualify to enlist in the armed forces. This presents a security threat for the nation as it creates challenges for the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, who together must attract more than 184,000 new recruits annually.
Over the past 50 years, the number of age-eligible men who exceed the U.S. Army's entry standards for weight-for-height and body fat percentage has more than doubled. For military-age women, the figure has more than tripled. These issues are beginning to receive national attention.
In February, Pentagon officials teamed with First Lady Michelle Obama to announce plans to revise nutrition standards across military branches for the first time in 20 years.
The new standards are designed to give troops and their families more access to fresh fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products. The healthier choices will be turning up in service member dining halls and military base schools, vending machines and snack bars.