Page last updated at 01:22 GMT, Saturday, 1 May 2010 02:22 UK

US youngsters are too fat to fight, warn generals

File pic of ban measuring his waist
Former generals want Congress to act to give children better food in schools

Rising rates of obesity among young Americans could undermine the future of the US military, two retired generals have warned.

More than a quarter of young Americans are now too fat to fight, they said.

Writing in the Washington Post, the ex-commanders said the fat crisis ruled out more potential military service recruits than any other medical factor.

They want Congress to introduce laws to give US children better nutrition in schools, with less sugar, salt and fat.

John Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, both former chairmen of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote: "Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military."

"We consider this problem so serious from a national security perspective that we have joined more than 130 other retired generals, admirals and senior military leaders in calling on Congress to pass new child nutrition legislation," the commanders added.

The warning comes amid mounting fears that childhood obesity has turned into an "epidemic" affecting an astonishing one in three young American people.

Mr Shalikashvili and Mr Shelton pointed to post-school lunch laws from 1946, which recognised that poor nutrition reduced the pool of military recruits.

"We must act, as we did after World War II, to ensure that our children can one day defend our country, if need be."

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