The growing ranks of overweight troops is a worrisome trend and the Defense Department should look for ways to help today’s force live a healthier lifestyle, the Pentagon’s top health official said Thursday.

“I am concerned,” Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency, told reporters on Thursday.

“Anything that attenuates or poses a challenge to our readiness or our health is something that I’m interested in,” she said.

But, Bono added, “We don’t have any kind of indication that this is impacting readiness.”

Recent military health data shows that about 7.8 percent of the force — or about one in every 13 troops — is clinically overweight, defined by a body mass index greater than 25.

That figure has roughly doubled during the past five years and is up fourfold since 2001, when about 1.6 percent of troops were diagnosed as clinically overweight.

Top Pentagon officials are rewriting the forcewide guidelines for body composition standards and the methods for officially evaluating it. For individual troops, a diagnosis of obesity can stall a career or lead to involuntary separation, making these policies are central to military life.

Some Pentagon officials worry that overweight troops pose a threat to combat readiness because they may not be able to move as quickly in ground combat and if they are wounded, it is more difficult for their buddies to pull them to safety.

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