In the too-fat-to-fight controversy within the U.S. military, a group of physicians has come up with one possible solution: chick peas.

A report issued earlier this year found that more than 25 percent of Americans aged 17-24 are so fat they can't be recruited, presenting a potential threat to the nation's security.

In another report released by Cornell University researchers, the number of women of military age who exceed the U.S. Army's enlistment standards for weight-for-height and body fat percentage has more than tripled in the past 50 years. For military-age men, the figure has more than doubled.

You might think one answer would be to slim down the recruiting population. But the Cornell researchers, perhaps conceding that we live in an ingrained fast-food and sedentary video-game culture, have at least one different suggestion: relaxing the standards (as if too much relaxing wasn't the problem already). The military could ease the height/weight ratios and body fat standards, particularly for noncombat troops.

That may not solve the problem, though. The military spends $1 billion a year on issues related to obesity, more than it spends on tobacco and alcohol-related problems combined. The findings were published in September by the National Bureau of Economic Research in a working paper titled "Unfit for Service: The Implications of Rising Obesity for U.S. Military Recruitment."

Responding to the two reports, a group of physicians sent a letter offering help to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The non-profit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is offering to stock military recruitment centers with free copies of its Vegetarian Starter Kits. The kits offer a three-step way to convert to vegetarianism. The idea is to offer the kits to fat recruits who can take them home, adopt the suggestions and return later, more fit to serve after being served less. No word yet on whether the admiral has taken them up on the offer.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434