"From a physiological perspective, he's a little older, and he might be in for a little constipation."
Photo by Stephen Lovekin/WireImage for Hill & Knowlton
Although Donald Trump has never had a drink, he eats like a person coming out of a bender. On the campaign trail, he subsisted on greasy, carb-filled fast food from places like KFC, Dominos, and McDonalds; now that's he's president (and can presumably get the White House chefs to cook anything he likes), he reportedly favors rock-hard steaks, chips and cookies, or piles of seafood and potatoes. He's also 70 years old, sleeps as little as four hours a night, and rarely exercises beyond the occasional cart-aided round of golf.
Given that when the VICE health editor ate like Trump for a week it made her feel irritable and insane, I thought it would be fair to ask what kind of effect these eating habits would have on a senior citizen with the most important job in the world. So I called up a registered dietician who works a lot with seniors (who later requested anonymity because they work with the government) and asked what kind of effect diet has on famously very good temperaments.
VICE: Donald Trump is an old man who only eats steak, potatoes, and fast food. Is this diet sustainable? What advice do you have for him?
Anonymous Registered Dietician: I would encourage him to increase his intake of fruit and vegetables and also his whole-grain consumption because of all of those nutrients that would come into his diet, especially if he's up in age. I mean, we're talking about a 70-year-old. We want to make sure he's eating well throughout the day, and if he's just eating these large steaks, then clearly he's deficient in the diet aspect.
How would only eating giant slabs of meat affect someone's mental acuity or energy? And what about his habit of liking steaks cooked really well done? Does that make it better?
It's pretty interesting because the diet that he's doing is one that many people do in this country. We have a lot of people who are deficient in fruit, vegetable, and whole-grain consumption but are high in sodium and sugar and fat. They're not getting the nutrients that are nourishing to the body. From a physiological perspective, he's a little older, and he might be in for a little constipation. [Overcooking the meat] has an effect on the digestion, but it also has an affect on the extra carcinogens that come in when you cook your meat well done.
What should a 70-year-old be eating? Obviously not the same thing as a 20-year-old college student, right?
Definitely having an occasional salad in there would be a great way to improve his health profile. And it doesn't look like he enjoys eating fruit or nuts, and I think one of the issues that people get perplexed by in general is having [the recommended] five or six servings of fruit and vegetables a day—it can feel overwhelming. So for him, he might gradually introduce something like citrus, since he's in Florida when he's not at the White House, and then build up from there.
I'm really interested in what that feels like. What happens to your body when you have no vitamins?
Some of the symptoms that come up in people who are deficient is that their nerves start firing inefficiently—you could be cold, you could have fatigue or shortness of breath, you could be dizzy, your heartbeat could be irregular. You could have muscle weakness or personality changes. So there are a lot of different things that can come with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Poor sleep, too.
Trump also guzzles Diet Coke. Have there been any reputable studies about the long-term effect of that habit?
All the studies that are currently out show that things like Diet Coke that contain aspartame are safe to consume. I think the only time people become leery is when you're dealing with a pregnant or expecting woman. The amount that's considered carcinogenic is obscene. You'd have to consume a good amount of Diet Coke to reach what is considered potentially toxic. So his vice is Diet Coke. Fair enough. I think there are a lot of options he could do, like some fruit-induced water or seltzer water, that would be better, but oh well.
Well, he also doesn't drink alcohol. What's worse: chronic alcohol abuse or only eating Big Macs?
I think both of them can end up being unhealthy. I think one of the things with fast food is that society gives it a bad rap. I'm not sure what he's ordering when he goes there. If he wants to have fried chicken as his entree at KFC, he could have vegetables instead of potato wedges as a side. The issue with alcohol consumption is that diet quality tends to decrease if they overdo it on alcohol consumption. It's good that he's not drinking.
But he already eats like a perpetually hungover person. Also, is he getting enough exercise for an old man?
What we encourage is all of our citizens to get 30 minutes of moderate or intense physical activity a day. I know he likes to go play golf, but if he's riding around in a cart and getting out to hit the ball and then getting back in, that's not considered physical activity. If he was carrying his clubs around, that would be.
What about sleep? Can the body train itself to become acclimated to only getting about four hours or rest? Or is Trump perpetually half-asleep?
As people get older, the number of hours that they need to sleep decreases. Most elderly people need to try and get six hours of sleep per day, so getting four is not enough. He should take a cat nap or something in the middle of the day or get some extra sleep. He's gonna be tired, he's gonna be irritable, his decision-making is gonna be impacted. I think he'd have reduced endurance, increased heart rate, more moodiness, and an increased amount of stress hormones, which can affect your glucose tolerance. So it will affect your mood and your lean-body mass, too.
Would it be a disaster to change your life drastically at age 70? Or are you better off just maintaining your habits, even if they aren't the healthiest?
There are two kinds of people in the world—those who can change cold turkey and those who need to gradually move the barometer over. And that's what I feel like would be best for this situation. There are a lot of things he can change, but perhaps trying to incorporate a couple of goals over a period of two to four weeks—whether that's increasing vegetable intake, or increasing sleep, or doing more physical activity. He's going to be so busy with the things that he's doing that he's not going to think it's a worthwhile investment, and he's been living for 70 years. So if it ain't broke, don't fix it, but working with the elderly, it's about improving quality of life.
So the overall effect of this diet is it'd make you constipated, vitamin deficient, irritable, and without much lean-body mass. Is that just what it feels like to be an old man, though?
A majority of the old men I work with have a difficult time making behavioral changes. You might look at a fruit bowl or a salad, and you might not perceive that as feminine, right? But a majority of these older men will look at that and feel like it's feminine, so they won't eat it. So Trump's part of that red-meat-and-potatoes generation. It's not gonna be a full swing in the other direction, but he can gradually move it over, start to feel a little better, and maybe if he loses a little bit of weight, he'll be more effective in the office.
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