Military Review English Edition March-April 2016 - Page 74

intra-abdominally.14 Women’s bodies, by contrast, protect the abdomen and preferentially distribute fat to subcutaneous sites. For men, this intra-abdominal fat accumulation leads to acute as well as long-term health consequences from associated metabolic derangements, and this occurs at lower levels of adiposity than it does for women.15 Impaired glucose regulation, with a largely undiagnosed but high prevalence in the United States today, also affects a soldier’s cognitive performance. The burden of measuring and enforcing fat standards is, arguably, greater (Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration) with men than with women. Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) volunteer recruits climb an obstacle during physExcess fat in women can be ical training in 1943 at an Army Air Forces Training Command base. reasonably monitored with a simIn July 1942, 440 women, including forty African-Americans, began WAAC basic ple body mass index calculation, officer training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. Proper clothing was an immediate issue since but this approach is inadequate no uniforms had yet been designed specifically for women, and availability of smaller-size for assessment in men because combat fatigues and footwear was limited. Obtaining appropriate duty uniforms in proper their greater variability in lean sizes remained an issue for the remainder of the war. Basic combat training drills were the same as regular Army training except women were not issued fatigue uniforms or weapmass confounds the measureons.26 Press interviews “revealed that the average officer candidate was twenty-five years ment.16 This makes it necessary old, had attended college, and was working as an office administrator, executive secretary, to estimate the percentage of or teacher. One out of every five had enlisted because a male member of her family was in the armed forces and she wanted to help him get home sooner. Several were combat widbody fat. Estimation of the perows of Pearl Harbor and Bataan. One woman enlisted because her son, of fighting age, had centage body fat involves measurbeen injured in an automobile accident and was unable to serve. Another joined because ing abdominal circumference to there were no men of fighting age in her family. All of the women professed a desire to aid 27 capture the dominant site of male their country in time of need by ‘releasing a man for combat duty.’” pattern fat deposition. As it turns special operations or combat jobs, longitudinal physical out, this site also conveniently represents the fat deposit training studies would be needed, but these are difficult most associated with cardiovascular and metabolic health and expensive. When some of these kinds of studies risks, a primary marker of underexercise and overnutrifinally were conducted to test concepts of strength tion, and the key offender of military appearance stanimprovement in women (accompanied by newspaper dards. Abdominal fat in men is also a sensitive biomarker headlines about the Army attempting to create “female of longstanding psychological stress.17 Rambos”), it was astonishing to discover the high trainThese facts indicate that any easing of body fat ability of men and women.13 standards would have a greater impact on the health and performance of men. The Army probably would Body Fat Standards and not have needed to implement body fat standards, Cardiovascular Health Risks as was done in 1983, in an all-women’s or mostly The big problem for men is that their bodwomen’s Army. In the men’s Army of 2015, the apies store the first thirty kilograms of excess fat proach to body composition management measures 72 March-April 2016  MILITARY REVIEW