The Defense Department has checked the scales, and the Navy is the most obese branch of the military under its command.
According to a Tuesday report in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, a recent Pentagon study found that the obesity rate is over 17 percent military-wide, up from less than 16 percent four years ago. Leading the way is the Navy, where 22 percent of sailors were found to be obese.
The Air Force came in second at 18 percent, followed closely by the Army at 17 percent. Meanwhile, the obesity rate among Marines is just 8.3 percent, the study found.
“This report highlights obesity as a growing health concern among Sailors,” the researchers said. “Obesity contributes to hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, all-cause mortality, and increased healthcare costs.”
The Marines are also the youngest military branch, which may help explain their relative fitness. Older service members are more likely to be fat, with a quarter of those over age 35 weighing in as obese.
However, the Marines may be paying a price for all their training. Members of the corps suffer the most knee and back injuries in the military, the study found. Navy soldiers were the least likely to be injured.
To measure troops’ obesity, the Defense Department relied on body mass index, a controversial height-weight measure that classifies a person as obese if they score over 30.
According to body mass index, Navy named the fattest branch
Obesity not only affects the military’s readiness, it’s also expensive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Defense Department spends about $1.5 billion annually on “obesity-related healthcare costs for current and former service members and their families, as well as costs to replace unfit personnel.”
Overweight and obese service members miss an extra 658,000 workdays each year, costing the Pentagon an additional $103 million, the CDC said.
“In the civilian world, unfit or overweight employees can impact the bottom line,” retired Air Force Gen. Richard E. Hawley said. “But in our line of work, lives are on the line and our national security is at stake.
Obesity is a national issue, and fat civilians are a military problem, too. About a third of young adults are considered too fat to enlist, the CDS said.
That has made recruiters jobs difficult as they have sought to increase the size of the force on the say-so of President Donald Trump. The Army for one has resorted to offering generous bonuses to qualified recruits, especially in career fields like infantry.