Oct 7th, 2018, 09:51 PM

The Gastro-politics of Trump's Diet

By Celine Glasier
Image Credit: Celine Glasier
Our politicians' diets reveal more about them than you might think.

Cynthia Nixon’s unconventional bagel preference was recently in the spotlight. Her unusual combination of lox on a cinnamon raisin bagel was picked up and debated by several news organizations. Bonappétit even had staff members sample and rate it. A few weeks ago Anderson Cooper told the world he dislikes eating, thinks it’s a waste of time, and only drinks the chalky nutrient-dense beverage Soylent, three times a day. Why does that interest us? Why is it in the news? Do diets reveal something about politicians or political commentators? Is there detail hidden in the foods we eat that allow us to learn more about those we elect? Or are we just nosy?

Nixon and Cooper, however, are not who I’m interested in. Despite a previous career as registered dietitian, I’m not looking to police others' diets. To each their own bagel or beverage choice. But where diet does matter is when it’s the President of the United States, and with 2018 Farm Bill now expired, it is important if our President eats vegetables.

If you’re not familiar with Trump’s hedonist four year old diet, here’s a typical snapshot: McDonald’s, pizza, KFC, and 12 Diet Cokes a day. His snacks include potato chips, pretzels, and Oreos. According to his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, Trump typically doesn’t eat breakfast, will go on sporadic 14 to 16 day fasts, then binge. A typical binge? “Big Macs, two Filet-O-Fish sandwiches, and a small chocolate shake — a total of 2,430 calories.” His shake alone is twice what the World Health Organization and the FDA recommend for daily sugar intake. Trump doesn’t like his pizza crust, or his sandwich bread, and eats steak with ketchup. I'm familiar with these juvenile taste bud preferences from my post-college year of nanny-ing. But even my youngsters would eat peas. In sum, Trump's diet is high in calories, high in fat, high in sodium, and high in sugar disguised in the form of pureed tomatoes.

Food is just another area Trump is failing us.

The United States is the country with the highest rate of obesity in the world, where 13 percent of adults are diabetic, where 41 million people are hungry, 15.6 million who are food insecure, and with failing food assistance programs, it matters what the President eats. Especially, when your diet effects how you act.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Numerous studies show that diet influences behavior. This is not new science, and it’s pretty sound science. According to a study by Public Library of Science, “Diet, specifically one high in processed fat or sugar, induces impulsive choice,” referred to as diet induced impulsivity. Another study shows that not only are processed diets a main cause of non-communicable diseases but also, “That diets high in fat might also increase the risk for depression and other psychiatric disorders.” Another study titled, "You are how you eat: fast food and impatience" shows that diet influences decisions and behavior unrelated to eating. Impulsive and impatient, two terms to describe Trump.

Diet also effects memory. A Journal of Nutritional Science study shows that people who regularly eat fried foods "scored poorly on tests that evaluated learning, memory, and brain function.” The researchers even suggest that eating fried food causes brain inflammation and small brain size. Instead of small hands, perhaps Trump should be more concerned with a small brain.

Trump would still be a disgraceful President even if he wasn’t eating junk on a regular basis. But with Trump’s mental and psychiatric health under question, it’s worth wondering if his temperament and impulsivity would be subdued if he wasn’t jacked up sugar and fat.  

Trump’s diet also reflects his values. Take his 2018 Farm Bill push for massive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) budget cuts and his invention of the Harvest Box filled with U.S. grown products to replace SNAP stamp benefits. The idea is entirely tone deaf and doesn't take into consideration what SNAP recipients need, or are asking for. The suggested changes benefit big agriculture, not people. Those living in poverty often live in food deserts, where healthy groceries are not easily accessible, and cheap fast food is often the only choice. That’s even more reason we need a president who cares about food and which crops and farms are being subsidized.

Instead, SNAP policies continue to place the blame of hunger on the personal responsibility of the hungry. Trump’s stance on anti-hunger policies show his capitalistic priorities and reflects his own selfish interests over the health and well-being of millions of Americans.

Or look at the recent list of pesticides the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under Trump have pushed to have deregulated in 2017, chlorpyrifos being one of them. Chlopyrifos is commonly used on crops like almonds and alfalfa, and is also considered a neurotoxin. Regular exposure has shown to cause neurological defects, especially in kids whose nervous systems are developing and adversely impacted. Luckily, in August 2018 a federal appeals court intervened and ordered the EPA. to ban chlorpyrifos. But just to mull that over, Trump proposed a rollback on a pesticide that is so toxic the federal court had to intervene and stop him from allowing into our food system. To put it into even more perspective, under the Obama administration the EPA proposed to ban chlorpyrifos. Trump is likely not eating almonds-unless maybe in a snickers bar-so what does he care if there’s chlorpyrifos on his produce.

The White House Garden is another example of Trump's priorities. Both Michelle Obama and President Obama were invested in the vegetable gardens, yet Trump has stayed uninvolved, and his lack of involvement reflects his lack of interest in nutrition and access to healthy food.

Reportedly, Trump has changed his diet. Apparently, he’s now eating eating soups and salads. Others are clearly as disturbed by what he eats as much as I am. We look to our leaders to set an example for the rest of us. The president sets the tone for the country, and that absolutely includes what they eat and the foods they value. Because the foods we choose say a lot about who we are.