Current Generation 'Too Fat To Fight'

By Amir Khan on September 26, 2012 12:44 PM EDT

Obesity
The rising rate of childhood obesity isn't just affecting the country's health -- it's affecting our national security as well, according to a new report (Photo: Reuters / Phil Noble)

The rising rate of childhood obesity isn't just affecting the country's health -- it's affecting our national security as well, according to a new report by Mission: Readiness, an advocacy group made up of retired military leaders. The group found that kids are consuming too many extra calories, and it's leading to an out-of-shape military force that cannot adequately protect the country.

"No other major country's military forces face the challenges of weight gain confronting America's armed forces," the report says.

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The group of 300 retired military officials found that kids are eating 400 billion excess calories per year from junk food sold in vending machines, snack bars and cafeterias.

"The calories add up," the report concludes. "While limiting the sale of junk food is not a solution by itself for the childhood obesity epidemic, it is part of the solution."

More than 12.5 million American children ages 2 through 19 are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the number of obese children has tripled since 1980. Health care costs related to childhood obesity totaled $3 billion in 2009, according to a study published in Nature.

The group calls for new policies to help curb the rising rate.

"The folks that are going to enter the military in 2025 are in school right now. So it's up to us to ensure that when those children reach the age of between 17 and 24 that they are ready or eligible to join the military," Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Norman Seip, a member of the group, told Reuters.

Margo Wootan, who oversees nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group, told Reuters that the fact that the military is worried about the rate is a somber reminder for the problem.

"It's a strong reminder of the seriousness and the extent of the obesity epidemic, showing how far reaching it is that even the military is concerned about it," she said.

Ultimately, the report concluded that childhood obesity is a problem that will require a great deal of coordination to conquer.

"We're not picking on the schools," Seip told CNN. "The schools are part of the solution. We like to think that this obesity problem... is one that's going to require all of America to tackle."

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