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A suggestion to the military to slim down its potential ranks: go vegetarian

October 19, 2010

Obesity affects many aspects of our society, and the military is no exception. But the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a solution to slimming down potential recruits: promote vegetarianism.

The committee recently wrote a letter to Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offering free copies of its "Vegetarian Starter Kit." The group supports "compassionate and effective medical practice, research and health promotion," according to its website, and is against animal research and testing.

A news release included part of the letter from the group's nutrition education director Susan Levin: "It is not too late for the overweight young people showing up at your recruiting stations," she wrote. "Instead of turning away a quarter of your potential recruits because they are too heavy, why not arm them with information on how to improve their health? Then schedule them for a return visit at a later date."

The kit offers a three-step program to adopt a plant-based diet as well as tips on getting down to a healthy weight and staying there. According to the release, the cover shows an overweight man holding a cheeseburger looking at a reflection of his slimmer self in a military uniform holding an apple.

The number of people who are overweight or obese has indeed become a problem for the military. A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that from 2007 to 2008, 5.7 million men and 16.5 million women of military age were over the U.S. Army's enlistment standards for weight-for-height and body fat percentage.

The study said, "The implications of rising obesity for the U.S. military are especially acute given its recent difficulties in recruiting a sufficient number of new high quality service members in the midst of combat operations overseas."

While we're certainly not against a plant-based diet, the committee might want to suggest adding some exercise into the mix as well since, as we all know, getting rid of excess weight is best done by making lifestyle changes and adopting more healthful habits.

--Jeannine Stein / Los Angeles Times

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