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Report shows U.S. military not alone in war on fat

October 10, 2016 (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Michel Sauret/Army)
Military fitness information obtained by a British newspaper offers some scale-busting numbers from that nation's armed forces, hinting that obesity concerns may not stop at the water's edge.

A 391-pound service member was among the 72 troops bounced from Great Britain's armed forces between January 2007 and March of this year, according to a report by The Sun, citing government figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request. The soldier, whose name and service branch were not released, is the largest British service member on record, according to the paper.

And while only six dozen troops lost their jobs due to weight issues over nine years -- the U.S. Army reportedly kicked out 1,625 out-of-shape soldiers during one 10-month span in 2012 -- other figures point to a problem across the pond beyond a few extreme cases. In addition to 5,540 soldiers who've failed a fitness test, more than 9,000 service members are classified as obese based on their body mass index, the newspaper reported.

The math works out to about 4.6 percent of the British force breaking the BMI obesity threshold. That's far less than the 2015 data for U.S. service members, which checks in at 7.8 percent, but there's a major caveat -- the British use a BMI of 30 as a cutoff, while the U.S. tracks troops who top 25.

The U.S.-run Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a score between 25 and 30 "overweight," and anything higher "obese."

A 2011 report put more than half of Britain's forces at or beyond the overweight mark. However, researchers at the time said the findings didn't take into account soldiers with more muscular builds. As one officer told The Telegraph, "We are getting bigger but we are also getting stronger. Large and fit is the ideal person for us."

U.S. service-branch spokespersons had similar reactions to weight data on American troops, saying fitness-test results showed the overwhelming majority of service members remained physically capable of performing their duties, regardless of what the scale says.

Another common theme links the military weight matters to increased obesity in the civilian sector, especially among youths. Retired generals and admirals are among the many U.S. leaders who consider the rising rate of overweight teenagers a matter of national security. The Sun's obesity write-up includes a section about the U.K.'s 3.3 million "lardy kids," relaying similar concerns in advance of Tuesday's World Obesity Day -- an Oct. 11 designation now in its second year promoted by a U.K.-based charity.
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