A recent study has highlighted a concerning trend among U.S. Army soldiers: a significant increase in obesity rates during the pandemic.
According to a study published in BMC Public Health and corroborated by an AP News report, nearly 10,000 active-duty Army soldiers developed obesity between February 2019 and June 2021.
This surge pushed the obesity rate to nearly a quarter of the troops studied. The research also revealed that the U.S. Navy and the Marines experienced similar increases.
The study, which analyzed medical records from the Military Health System Data Repository, focused on two periods: pre-pandemic (February 2019 to January 2020) and during the pandemic (September 2020 to June 2021).
The findings were alarming. Before the pandemic, about 18% of the soldiers were classified as obese. By 2021, this figure had risen to 23%.
The Body Mass Index (BMI) was the primary tool used to determine these classifications. A BMI between 18.5 to 25 is considered healthy, 25 to less than 30 is overweight, and 30 or higher is categorized as obese.
While some experts argue that BMI might not be the most accurate measure due to its inability to account for muscle mass, it remains a widely accepted tool.
The implications of these findings are profound. Overweight and obese troops are more prone to injuries and may struggle to meet the physical demands of their roles.
The military reportedly loses over 650,000 workdays annually due to weight-related issues, with obesity-related health costs exceeding $1.5 billion each year for current and former service members and their families.
The pandemic-induced lockdowns, coupled with increased stress and limited exercise opportunities, have been identified as significant contributors to this trend. The most notable change was observed among junior soldiers aged 20 to 24.
The military’s response to this issue is crucial. While individual efforts, like that of Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Murillo, who managed to reduce his BMI through a strict exercise routine, are commendable, a more comprehensive approach is needed.
Addressing the food offered in military cafeterias, understanding sleep patterns, and providing support for issues like PTSD are essential steps.
Dr. Amy Rothberg, an endocrinologist at the University of Michigan, emphasized the importance of viewing obesity as a chronic disease that requires comprehensive care.
The introduction of effective anti-obesity drugs, such as Wegovy, could be beneficial. However, uptake remains low, with only 174 service members receiving prescriptions since its approval in June 2021.
The rising obesity rates among U.S. Army soldiers underscore the need for immediate action, not only for the health of the individuals but also for the readiness and efficiency of America’s defense forces.
Source: AP News