Thursday 26 April 2018

Trump medicine: will Donald really be the 'healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency'

Benefits of the Mediterranean diet might be over-egged, says Maurice Gueret, as he bones up on The Donald's health

Rick Stein
Rick Stein
Maurice Gueret

Cookery programmes are big business on television these days. Just what the advertisers ordered. These bake-fests generally pass under my radar. I like my food, but foodies are liked a bit less. But I make an honourable exception for Rick Stein. Now that Michael Palin's sandals have drifted towards retirement, the fish-loving Stein fills nicely the role of the mannerly, happy-camper Englishman, extolling the very best of what Johnny foreigner has to offer.

The latest series is Rick Stein's Long Weekends, and it features the Cornish cook chopping carrots and courgettes in a cornucopia of continental culinary cities. He will have visited 10 in all when the series of short breaks finishes later in the year. Alas, Dublin's bacon and cabbage, coddle and boxties didn't merit a visit, but I was absolutely fascinated by his trip to Iceland and all that he uncovered there.

Iceland didn't trade its flourishing fish industry for EU farm bungs like Ireland did. Nor did it go for the trend of importing olive oil to cook every morsel of food in. The good people of Reykjavik, excellent role models for self-sufficiency, use old-fashioned butter from their own old-fashioned cows to cook most of their fish and meat in.

My research tells me that the people of Iceland live an average of two years longer than we do. The benefits of the Mediterranean diet with all their extra-virgins, antioxidants and olive trees might just be over-egged.

This year's US presidential election is getting rather interesting, so I thought it might be timely to have a look at the medical condition of the front runners. We could lift a sleeve and see who might best last the extraordinary marathon that these races become. First, I need to declare a conflict of interest. One of the front runners appears on my French family tree as 12th cousin, once removed. Nobody has ever trumped a Gueret from Navarre, so it's dearest Hillary Rodham Clinton and I who go back an awfully long way. We might examine cousin Hil's medical file in next week's column, but this week it's the turn of her rival Donald Trump to undress for the clinical eye.

Now, Trump has kept his medical history under close wraps for some time. All the media knew about him was that a calcaneal spur in his heel helped him avoid a potential Vietnam draft. But when questions were raised about Trump's age (he would be the oldest first-term president ever at the age of 70) it was decided to bring his personal physician into the equation. That's Dr Harold Bornstein, a consultant gastroenterologist at Manhattan's Lenox Hill Hospital. Last December, tummy man Dr Bornstein issued an extraordinary letter, stating that his patient would be the "healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency". Now that's a bold statement for any doctor to make, especially one who earns a crust carefully inserting proctoscopes. All the more so when you consider that the doctor has never examined a single other inhabitant of the White House. What Dr Bornstein does have is a patient he knows well. He has looked after Mr Trump since 1980, and the doctor's own father, Jacob Bornstein, was Trump's physician before that. The letter stated that the candidate had lost 15lbs in 2015. Political campaigning is good exercise. Dr Bornstein confirmed that all the Trump joints were his own, and that the candidate has never had cancer. He doesn't smoke or take alcohol. His only time under a surgeon's knife was to have an appendix lopped off at the age of 10. His medications are 81 milligrams of aspirin a day (a low dose to prevent heart attack and stroke) and a low-dose statin for cholesterol reduction. Dr Bornstein is fond of superlatives, stating that Trump's lab results were "astonishingly excellent", whatever that means. A prostate cancer blood marker was normal; blood pressure was 110 over 65; and his physical strength and stamina were described as "extraordinary".

Donald Trump likes Dr Bornstein. When his medical report appeared, Trump issued a statement to say that his physician was highly respected and that he was proud to get a report of "excellent health". Trump went on to state that he was fortunate to be "blessed with great genes". He cited the longevity of his parents, stating that they had both lived "long and productive lives". What the doctor's report did not mention is perhaps as interesting as what he did. Mental health didn't get a look-in - just a broad statement that Donald has had no significant medical problems. We got no mention of Trump's diet. He is on the record as "eating what he likes" and being keen on steak, pasta, hamburgers, fries, bacon and eggs. And no mention of that hair. Dr Bornstein's has an extraordinary barnet himself, twice as long as that of his most famous patient.

A dentist wrote last week to tell me of the special interests in his practice. There was a bit of orthodontics, some dental trauma work and then what I thought was a misspelling. He told me of his interest in cariology, which, at first glance, I thought was heart stuff. We are all educated now about dental caries, but I had never previously heard the study of them described as cariology. The word 'caries' once meant 'rottenness' in the English language, and I think, along the way, it was appropriated by dentists to mean decay. Some dentists prefer to use the word cavity to patients, and I approve of this. If our language keeps morphing as it is, doctors who treat holes in the heart might soon be called cariocardiologists.

Dr Maurice Gueret is editor of the 'Irish Medical Directory'

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