The number of obese active-duty service members has increased by 61 percent since 2002, according to a recent report.
Mission: Readiness, a group of more than 450 retired senior military leaders, published the report, titled "Retreat Is Not an Option," last month. This is the third report from Mission: Readiness since 2010 that focuses on obesity in the United States and its effect on the military.
The group also said the military spends more than $1.5 billion in annual obesity-related health care. The data in the report shows that more than 70 percent of the population in most states is ineligible to serve in the armed forces.
"We just can't kick this can down the road for another year," Casey W. Coane, a retired Navy rear admiral and a member of Mission: Readiness, told The New York Times. "We have hundreds of young men and women with critical skills our military needs who can't join because they are obese."
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The Army is the heaviest branch, with nearly 16 percent of soldiers overweight, according to the most recent Defense Department health survey. The Navy is next, with almost 15 percent of sailors overweight. The Marine Corps had the smallest portion of service members who were overweight, 5 percent. More men were found to be overweight than women, 13.5 percent compared with 6.4 percent.
According to the report, one study of more than 2,000 men in a U.S. Army light-infantry brigade in Afghanistan found that 14 percent were obese.
The report also addresses childhood obesity and the effects of changes in school lunches. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 90 percent of the country's school districts are meeting healthier meal standards.