London: Over 22,000 British soldiers have been found to be overweight and at risk of health problems, according to new figures, suggesting that the army may be too fat to fight.
The figures point out that even Britain`s war fighting forces are not immune to the country`s obesity epidemic.
Separate figures show that more than 22,000 troops in the British Army were found to be overweight and at risk of health problems during the past three years.
The troops were judged to be at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease because they were so out of shape.
"Part of the problem is the appalling diet many soldiers have. While soldiers can have salads and low-calorie meals, they can also have a cooked breakfast, followed by chips at lunch and chips at dinner and a stodgy pudding, too," a senior officer was quoted as saying by The Sunday Times.
"Soldiers also tend to have their (evening) meal around 5pm so it`s off to the Naafi (canteen) for a pie and a pint later in the evening when they get a bit peckish," the officer said.
The traditional way of measuring body fat - using the body mass index - is often criticised for not taking into account the extra weight carried by individuals who are heavily muscled but nevertheless fit.
However, the army`s figures do make allowances for the different body composition of some soldiers.
All soldiers in the British Army, including senior officers, are expected to undergo the personal fitness assessment (PFA) twice a year, but 32,419 troops failed it at some point in the three years to March, the daily said.
Troops under the age of 30 must be able to do 44 press-ups within two minutes, followed by 50 sit-ups.
They then have to run 1.5 miles in 10 minutes 30 seconds or faster. Women must be able to do 21 press-ups, 50 sit-ups and run 1.5 miles in 13 minutes or less.
Allowances are made for older soldiers.
Army personnel aged between 50 and 54 have to be able to do 25 press-ups and 32 sit-ups and achieve a running time of 13 minutes 30 seconds.
According to the new figures, 29,600 men and 2,819 women failed the test at some point in the three years to March 2014.
This does not include about 18,000 soldiers classified as "medically downgraded" after being wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan or who are recovering from illness or training injuries.