British army
According to Ministry of Defence figures, 50 British troops have been dismissed for obesity since 2002.Reuters

More than 22,000 British troops have been found to be overweight within the last three years, new figures reveal.

Tens of thousands of serving British Army personnel are at risk of health problems such as Type 2 diabetes, shortness of breath and high blood pressure due to obesity, according to data from the Ministry of Defence.

The figures also reveal that over the past three years, 32,419 male and female soldiers have failed the army's basic fitness test, which includes sit-ups, press-ups and a 1.5-mile run. Furthermore, 50 troops have been dismissed from the army for obesity since 2002.

The statistics cover March 2011 to March 2014, and include troops who may have served on the front line at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.

Servicemen under the age of 30 must be able to do 50 sit-ups within two minutes and 44 press-ups within the same period of time. Military personnel are also required to run a 1.5-mile route in under 10 minutes and 30 seconds.

Female soldiers under 30 are required to be able to do 50 sit-ups and 21 press-ups in two minutes, and run a 1.5-mile stretch in 13 minutes or less.

Once a year, troops are also expected to complete an eight-mile march carrying a rucksack weighing up to 25kg within two hours.

One senior officer said the problem of obesity among troops can be found across the country and can be attributed to poor eating habits.

"Part of the problem is the appalling diet many soldiers have," he told The Sunday Times.

"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."

Professor David Haslam, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said the figures are "worrying".

"When a group of professional soldiers are being looked after by fitness and nutritional specialists, they really should be able to ensure they are fit and healthy," he told the Daily Mail.

"The inability to do simple fitness tests is a worry. It seems to me that it's one of the most basic parts of their role - the tools of their practice."

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the figures represent just 11% of serving army personnel and maintained that all troops are offered training and support.