The UK armed forces are in the midst of an "obesity epidemic", Conversative Lord McColl of Dulwich, a consultant surgeon, has warned.
The former professor of surgery at Guy's and St Thomas' Medical School, and junior health minister in John Major's government, made his sizeist remarks during a 25 February House of Lords debate on eating disorders.
"When we talk about eating disorders, the most serious eating disorder by far is the obesity epidemic, which is now impinging on the Armed Forces…Ejector seats in fighter planes are having to be modified because of obesity, and no doubt the noble Lord, Lord West, will be interested, because we may have to enlarge the escape hatches of submarines," he warned.
— Nina Teicholz (@bigfatsurprise) January 28, 2019
In response, Health Minister Baroness Blackwood of North Oxford thanked Lord McColl for the question.
"I do not feel able to comment on ejector seats or submarine hatches…but I believe obesity is a serious issue, and that is exactly why we introduced the children's obesity plan," she said.
— Henry Jones (@hthjones) November 17, 2018
In October 2018, Ministry of Defense data indicated almost 18,000 members of the British armed forces are clinically obese — including 8,662 obese soldiers in the Army, 4,666 in the Royal Navy and 4,274 in the Royal Air Force — with 398 troops suffering from type 2 diabetes, 160 personnel prescribed diet pills, and 16 given liposuction. The figures also showed over 30,000 troops were considered overweight, based on the body composition measure.
An MoD spokesperson at the time said all military personnel were "required to pass our challenging fitness tests, and those who do not pass are provided with diet and fitness support, in order to reach and maintain a healthy weight." Those who failed the tests were put on a targeted program to help them back to required weight levels.