Study Shows US Troops Turning To Weight Loss Drugs

According to a recent Medical Surveillance Monthly Report study, the U.S. military is facing a weight problem. The report, which was published in a peer-reviewed journal for the armed forces, stated that more military personnel are turning to weight loss drugs to shed the extra weight.

The number of service members with weight loss prescriptions dramatically increased in 2018, when the Department of Defense began authorizing medication coverage for active-duty troops struggling with their weight. In January 2016, there were only seven weight loss prescriptions throughout the entire military. By June 2023, that number rose to 816.

It is suggested that the pandemic also affected the amount of military personnel turning to weight loss prescriptions. As a whole, the military reported an increase in overweight members following the lockdowns. The Army reported seeing more than 10,000 soldiers becoming obese.

The CDC reports that two out of five adults are obese. To make matters worse, 71% of young adults in the U.S. were unfit to join the military in 2018, making recruitment difficult, and that number has been steadily rising.

According to CDC estimates, the Pentagon spends around $1.5 billion on obesity-related health costs each year and loses 658,000 work days because of it.

Major Noland Johnson, an active-duty Civil Affairs Officer, suggests the increase is due to the discounted products offered to military personnel.

“On every base, AAFES [the Army and Air Force Exchange Service] offers tobacco at state minimum prices, deals on candy bars, and alcohol without tax,” Johnson said. “Soldiers can either embrace these cheap, unhealthy options or take a 30-minute trip off-post to find healthy options that cost a premium.”

“The results are obvious,” he added. “For a force pressed on time and money, 2-for-1 Monster energy drinks, discounted hot dogs and chewing tobacco are the regular lunch plan.”

Researchers believe there is no end in sight for the use of weight loss medications to decrease, given the health status of Americans.

“Use of weight loss medications will likely continue to increase due to the ongoing obesity epidemic in the U.S.,” researchers stated.

Before taking weight loss medication, military members must get prior authorization from their doctor and have a body mass index (BMI) over 29 or 26 if they have a health condition related to being overweight, such as sleep apnea or diabetes.

To get a grip on the obesity issue, retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Mark Hertling recommends reaching the country’s youth before they reach adulthood.

“The military has experienced increasing difficulty in recruiting soldiers as a result of physical inactivity, obesity, and malnutrition among our nation’s youth,” he said. “Not addressing these issues now will impact our future national security.”