Michelle Obama highlights new national security threat: Obesity prevents 25% of Americans from serving in armed forces

Forget about Wikileaks. Michelle Obama has warned about a new threat to America’s national security – obesity.

The First Lady claimed that one in four young Americans are unqualified to serve in the armed forces because they are too fat.

‘Childhood obesity isn’t just a public health issue, it’s not just an economic threat, it’s a national security threat as well,’ she said.

Joint effort: U.S. President Barack Obama speaking before signing into law the new health act,while his wife Michelle looks on

Joint effort: U.S. President Barack Obama speaking before signing into law the new health act, while his wife Michelle looks on

Mrs Obama was making a rare joint speaking appearance with her husband in Washington where the president signed a nutrition bill to help improve the quality of school meals.

While he may be at loggerheads with Republicans over his tax plans, Mr Obama praised the bipartisan support that smoothed the way through U.S. Congress for the anti-obesity legislation.

The $4.5 billion measure will expand free school meals for the needy and give the government the power to decide what kinds of foods may be sold in vending machines, lunch lines and fundraisers during school hours.

Domestic bliss: President Obama and his wife kiss during yesterday's signing. The president said that he would have been in trouble with his wife had he not been able to get the bill passed

Domestic bliss: President Obama and his wife kiss during yesterday's signing. The president said that he would have been in trouble with his wife had he not been able to get the bill passed

The legislation increases the federal support for free school lunches at a time many school officials say they can't afford to provide the meals.

The new funds also will allow 20 million additional after-school meals to be served annually in all 50 states. Most states now only provide money for after-school snacks.

‘Had I not been able to get this bill passed, I would be sleeping on the couch,’ the president joked.

‘Let’s just say it got done, so we don’t have to go down that road,’ said the First Lady, who has made the battle to curb America’s obesity epidemic one of her primary goals.

Two-thirds of adults and one in three children in America are said to be either overweight or obese.

Speaking at the Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Washington, Mrs Obama said: ‘We can all agree that here in the wealthiest nation on earth, all children should have the basic nutrition they need to learn and grow and pursue their dreams.’

She said the bill to boost nutrition in school meals would help combat obesity-related diseases like diabetes, heart problems and cancer as well as save billions of dollars spent on treating them.

Military weight standards in the US aren’t particularly demanding.

Male recruits younger than 27 must have a body-fat percentage below 26 per cent. That’s twice the fat carried by a young man in peak physical condition.

Nevertheless, a recent report found that nine million Americans, or about one in four, are too overweight to enlist.

Obesity is now one of the most common reasons for people being disqualified from military service. In 2008, the latest year for which statistics are available, 4,555 U.S. soldiers were discharged for failing to meet military weight standards.
 

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