Too big to fight? Our soldiers are also affected by excess weight

Too big to fight?  Our soldiers are also affected by excess weight

We readily think of them as sharp for combat or physical exercise, but the French military would follow the same evolution as the rest of the population: they too would experience a rising rate of overweight and obesity.

Discomfort in the military ranks. In January 2023, an American study revealed a reality of the US defense corps: only a third of Americans old enough to be called up met the necessary physical criteria. The rest are overweight or even obese. But this problem stamped “Too fat too fight” in many media would have repercussions in other nations… Including Europe.

More than half of the police officers on duty are overweight

The public health issue is also at the heart of the French army. And for good reason: according to the figures collected by our colleagues from Point, in 2020, almost half of the population was overweight and 17% obese. But surprise, this worrying rate also affects military ranks: 45.7% are overweight, and 9.6% suffer from obesity.

The most affected would be non-commissioned officers and the national gendarmerie, of whom obesity affects 11.5% and overweight 50.1% of the workforce. The gendarmerie being elsewhere “the only army corps where there are more overweight people than those of normal weight”, notes Lyse Bordier-Sirvin, head of the endocrinology and metabolic diseases department at the Bégin army training hospital (Val-de-Marne). Nothing to be very proud of.

Metabolic syndrome, a real threat to the armed forces

This increase in excess weight is not foreign to the chief doctor Olivier, who has been interested in the pathologies of the army corps for around fifteen years. In an article published by the Ministry of the Armed Forces last January, it also warned about metabolic syndrome, perceived as “a more pernicious threat” as “trauma” or risks linked to the profession.

“Metabolic syndrome affects approximately 25% of the world population. Among its numerous complications (cardiovascular, renal, respiratory, etc.), steatopathy of metabolic origin (“human fatty liver”) is on the way to becoming the leading cause of liver transplant in the United States and Europe. (…) This epidemic also affects the French armed forces.” he alerted.

The cause is the sedentary lifestyle and the fast-food culture which affects several generations, even the youngest and therefore the most recent enlisted personnel. These two phenomena also have a toxic effect on the liver which is increased in the event of tobacco and/or alcohol consumption.

NO to diets, YES to WW!

At war… against weight gain!

The hunt for excess weight has thus begun in the ranks in order to avoid “an obese army”.

In order to detect and prevent metabolic syndrome, particularly in OPEX (external operation, Editor’s note), MC Olivier proposes, in addition to raising awareness among the military population, “a part of generalizing the systematic measurement of the abdominal perimeter (reflection of deep fat) during medical visits, whatever the body mass index and, on the other hand, to detect/evaluate human fatty liver, in particular through the use of non-invasive imaging” is it stated in the official article.

A change in habits and mentalities must also take place. It is in this context that the Army Health Service agreed to promote and finance MC Olivier’s research project on human “fatty liver” in the armed forces.. This study will consist of evaluating, in terms of liver imaging and intestinal microbiota, a sample of 300 military volunteers presenting obesity associated with metabolic syndrome.