During the Obama years, a number of people, called “birthers,” were accused of engaging in a conspiracy theory which said the former president was born in Kenya. This time around, the so-called “girther” conspiracy theories are coming from the mainstream media and Democratic lawmakers, and their insinuations could not be more embarrassing.
Sen. Claire McCaskill is calling for a public weigh-in to prove the president is obese, while CNN’s Brian Stelter is practically calling White House physician Ronny Jackson a liar. After Tuesday’s hour-long press conference with Dr. Jackson, in which he gave the president a clean bill of health, Stelter tweeted:
Here's how the next few hours will go. Trump supporters will say "Concerns about Trump's mental health were always absurd. Case closed now." The obvious response: "The Q's about fitness for office are serious. Someone could be sharp as a tack, but still unfit"
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 16, 2018
(As an aside, per Kyle Olson at American Mirror, Stelter during the 2016 race for the White House was a staunch defender of Hillary’s Clinton’s personal physician, who it has since been revealed was lying — bigtime — about her patient’s health.)
Another CNN stalwart, Abby Phillip, went so far as to declare that Trump suffers from heart disease. Phillip didn’t personally examine the president, partly because that would be practicing medicine without a license, but she did link to a WebMD article:
Dr. Jackson yesterday: "he has nonclinical atherosclerotic coronary — coronary atherosclerosis."
— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) January 17, 2018
The flash point for the Girthers is President Trump’s BMI, or body mass index. According to Jackson, Trump is 6 feet, 3 inches, and weighs 239 pounds. This places his BMI (which can be computed by dividing weight by height squared) at 29.9 — a tenth of a point below the threshold for obesity:
There are two problems here:
- For most of us, the word obese calls to mind images of morbidly or severely obese people, sheathed in rolls of adipose tissue, like the couple below. Mild or borderline obesity in contrast is often barely noticeable.
- BMI, as a barometer of health, fails to take into account a host of relevant variables, among them age, frame size, muscle mass, and fat distribution and type. Differences in muscle mass explain why an NFL running back with 10% body fat will be classified as obese under this system.
Fat distribution and type are particularly important since an excess of visceral fat (fat in and between the organs) can lead to serious health problems, while too much subcutaneous fat (fat under the skin) presents a lesser risk. Sumo wrestler, who typically have high BMIs but little visceral fat, are generally metabolically healthy.
Ultimately, BMI is a vague indicator of relative health, but that isn’t stopping Trump haters from claiming he is too sick to remain in office. And if this doesn’t work, rest assured they will simply move on to plan Z.
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