The French Armed Forces Health Service (SSA) is expressing growing concern about the rise of “metabolic syndrome” among military personnel. This issue, together with the more common health problems such as digestive diseases, respiratory infections, skin conditions, and non-combat related trauma, is painting a worrying picture of the overall health status of the French military.
Identifying the Key Health Concerns
The most common health issues among French military personnel include digestive diseases, respiratory infections, and skin conditions. Interestingly, less than 1% of the consultations with SSA are related to combat injuries, indicating that everyday health issues make up the bulk of the health concerns for military personnel.
The Rise of “Metabolic Syndrome”
The SSA has recently noted an increase in cases of “metabolic syndrome” among military personnel, a condition that is defined by an excess of belly fat and other factors like high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, low ‘good' cholesterol HDL, and high blood pressure. This syndrome is linked to severe health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, liver and kidney diseases, sleep apnea, and gynecological disorders.
It's not just a French phenomenon. The “metabolic syndrome” is also prevalent in the United States, affecting 40% of people over the age of 50. In France, one in five people suffer from it. The French military is not spared, with the prevalence of this syndrome being so high that it's being referred to as an “epidemic”.
Obesity and the Military
The prevalence of obesity in the French armed forces was estimated at 9.6% in 2018. A sedentary lifestyle and the influence of a fast-food culture are among the primary causes of this disturbing trend, affecting even the youngest and newest recruits.
Proactive Steps for Prevention and Research
An essential part of tackling these health concerns is continuous and effective preventive measures. These include a focus on individual and collective hygiene and efforts to combat alcohol and tobacco consumption.
Understanding the need to find solutions to the obesity problem and metabolic syndrome, the SSA has initiated a research project on “human fatty liver” as part of the “Biomedef 2023” program. The study will evaluate liver imaging and intestinal microbiota in a sample of 300 volunteer military personnel with obesity associated with metabolic syndrome. This initiative is among the many steps SSA is taking to address the increasing health issues among the French military.