The recently published book by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski describes the president’s routine eating habits: a quick gobbling of two Big Macs, two Filet of Fish sandwiches, and a chocolate malt. A fourth food group, if available, is pizza. Bags of salted crunchy snacks are always available between meals and Trump’s routine dessert of choice is Oreos, sugar bombs made with high fructose corn syrup.
It doesn’t take a physician to let you know that eating like this is simply asking for trouble, especially for a 71-year-old man who never exercises, sleeps poorly, and is under constant stress and prone to attacks of rage.
And now we learn the president downs an average of 12 cans (yes, two six packs) of Diet Coke every day.
The arguments about the health dangers of diet beverages have bounced back and forth ever since the drinks were introduced decades ago. Two facts are pretty certain: they don’t cause cancer and there’s never been a link between them and direct weight gain. However, regular users of diet drinks often gain weight, believing that because their beverage is as fattening as water they can eat more food. Just watch people at any fast-food restaurant: customers walk away with hugely caloric trays of food while juggling a super-sized diet drink.
When the president’s Diet Coke addiction was revealed–and you must admit 12 cans daily is an addiction–some newspapers and magazines (oddly enough, Forbes) made reference to a study published in the medical journal Stroke, in April, 2017, linking diet beverage consumption among people over 45 (average age 62) to increased strokes and dementia.
Of 2888 participants, 97 developed strokes and 81 dementia (63 Alzheimer’s, 18 small-stroke dementia). These numbers are quite high, considerably higher than those in people who drink sweetened beverages. The full-sugar group gets diabetes and obesity instead. As you might expect, the stroke and dementia numbers rise significantly when unhealthful dietary habits and physical inactivity are factored into the equation.
A recent Twitter storm raged over the president’s slurred speech during his announcement about Jerusalem. Could he have suffered a mini-stroke? Is this a sign of dementia? I watched the clip several times and must admit I agree with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that he likely had a bad case of dry mouth.
Eating, drinking, nuclear decision making
Still, I do have major concerns about the effect of the president’s eating and drinking habits on his decision-making skills. We’ve all seen or read about Trump’s angry outbursts, paranoid thinking, and mood swings, which any physician will tell you can be the first signs of Alzheimer’s or multi-infarct (mini-stroke) dementia.
Such behavior should be especially worrisome as the President threatens to initiate a nuclear war with North Korea. In August, he threatened Kim Jong-un that his country “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” if he made any more threats to the US. Senator Lindsay Graham revealed “Trump has 100 percent made up his mind that he’s not going to let Kim Jong-un deploy a missile that could hit the US.” Most political writers read this as a presidential willingness to initiate a nuclear war based only on the threat from North Korea.
The problem is that the president believes that any country with a large nuclear arsenal and a saber-rattling dictator will actually use it. He forgets that both China and Russia also have had immense nuclear reserves and dictators, but both countries, fearful of a highly likely mutually-assured destruction, have kept the peace for the past 75 years.
It might be useful to remind everyone how long we’ve been in suspense about “something nuclear” ending our lives. I do wish the president would read a little history.
As for myself (the president and I are roughly the same age), I was born shortly after the US defeated Japan by dropping a pair of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. My generation grew up in the shadow of that ominous mushroom cloud of destruction. We saw pictures of it everywhere. When we learned Russia had its bomb, we began air-raid drills at school. We learned how to duck and cover by watching how Burt the Turtle hid in his shell when he saw the first atomic flash. If you have a minute, watch this short but chilling educational movie that my classroom sat through a dozen times at Oglesby School in Chicago.
Then came the fallout shelter fad. Families moved to the suburbs to escape the euphemistically-called “changing neighborhoods” and Russian bombs. Anxious dads spent hundreds of dollars building fallout shelters in their basements or backyards. Along Chicago’s lakefront through the l950s and 1960s were numerous Nike missile sites and radar stations aimed allegedly toward Russia, but probably only capable of hitting Flint, Michigan.
We watched dozens of bad movies with mushroom clouds and monsters created by nuclear fallout. Did you know the very first Godzilla was awakened and empowered by the nuclear radiation we dropped on Japan?
But we also learned the real horrors of atomic warfare in John Hersey’s report “Hiroshima,” finally giving in to the cynical black humor of Dr. Strangelove, whose subtitle “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” says it all.
Americans endured years of saber-rattling presidents long before Trump. Kennedy had to struggle with the Joint Chiefs of Staff who wanted to drop atomic bombs on Havana during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During Vietnam, so-called hawks like Nixon and Goldwater, fed up with Ho Chi Minh, simply wanted to nuke Hanoi out of existence.
Most frightening in recent years was Ronald Reagan (who probably had early Alzheimer’s at the time) when he got up to a speaker’s podium to announce he had launched a nuclear attack on Russia, then followed with a laugh and said “Only kidding, ha ha.” On Reagan’s team, the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense described how we could survive a nuclear war by digging a hole, climbing in, and pulling a door to cover ourselves. His famous quote: “If there are enough shovels to go around, everyone is going to make it.”
Okay, okay. Buried in all this history is a Health Tip. Junk diets will clog your arteries and increase your risk for heart attacks and strokes. Diet colas will increase your risk for early dementia.
Don’t you wish the president would schedule a visit with one of our WholeHealth Chicago nutritionists? It could actually benefit our longevity as well as his.
David Edelberg, MD