Posts Tagged ‘drinking’

Venla’s 5-month birthday

Saturday, March 11th, 2017 | Family & Parenting

On Thursday, Venla reached the grand old age of 5 months. She celebrated in the usual way: by doing a lot of crying and screaming.

Unfortunately, as people have a habit of doing, she overindulged a little. Soon she was passed out on the sofa.

To the wine guzzlers hoarding that one special bottle

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017 | Food

Let’s face facts: you have already waited too long to drink that bottle.

You know the one. The expensive looking red that was a year or two old when you got it. You put it aside for a special occasion. That makes sense. You might as well chug cheap plonk until you have someone to share it with.

But now it is five years later. Ten years later. It is still sitting there in your kitchen. You have moved house since then. The bottle came with you. You keep telling yourself that you are just waiting for an occasional special enough. But that occasion never comes. You have had major changes in your life since then and the bottle is still sitting there.

It’s not getting any better. You’re not even sure it has a cork in it, and even if it does, you have had it stood upright all of this time. All you are doing is building up expectations that it is going to be great. It cannot possibly live up to that hype anymore.

So, do yourself a favour. Crack it open tonight. This week at the latest. The next time someone suggests wine, reach straight for it. The poor thing has waited long enough.

No thanks, I’m pregnant

Sunday, July 17th, 2016 | Science, Thoughts

no-thanks-im-pregnant

While in Mothercare a few weeks ago, I picked up a leaflet on alcohol. It has the Leeds City Council and NHS logo on the front and is entitled “No thanks, I’m pregnant”. The message is that the best amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant, is none.

The problem with this statement, is that it may not be true.

For years it has been widely believed that you should cut out alcohol while you are pregnant. All the pregnancy books I read recommended staying away from alcohol. Though they also said that if you had been drinking before you found out, it didn’t matter. How does that stack up? The answer is because there is a lack of evidence that alcohol is harmful after three months.

Do not mistake me: heavy drinking while pregnant is dangerous of the baby and could result in foetal alcohol syndrome. It is serious and if you drink heavily you will do serious damage to your baby. However the evidence for moderate alcohol consumption is less clear.

Advice published by The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says…

Drinking small amounts of alcohol after three months of pregnancy (not more than one or two units, not more than once or twice a week) does not appear to be harmful.

Similarly, in 2010 University College London published research that concluded…

Light drinking during pregnancy does not harm a young child’s behavioural or intellectual development.

Alcohol is not beneficial to the foetus. However, small amounts are not harmful either. Given that it does provide health benefits to adults, it could be useful for the mother. In light of all of this, it may be time to re-think our public health advice on drinking while pregnant.

Lifestyle factors in life expectancy

Sunday, May 1st, 2016 | Health & Wellbeing, Science

running

In 2008 the European EPIC study began to publish their results. The study followed over half a million people and follow-ups continue. However, one factor was clear from the moment that the results started coming in: your lifestyle choices have a big impact on your life expectancy. A paper published in PLoS Med placed the figure at 14 years.

In 2014, BMC Medicine published a paper that broke down the factors into life expectancy years.

Factor Men Women
Heavy smoking (10 or more per day) 9.4 years 7.3 years
Smoking (less than 10 per day) 5.3 years 5.0 years
Being underweight (BMI less than 22.5) 3.5 years 2.1 years
Obesity (BMI over 30) 3.1 years 3.2 years
Heavy drinking (more than 4 drinks per day) 3.1 years  
Eating processed/red meat (more than 120g per day)   2.4 years

What should we take from this? Nobody would contest that smoking is bad for you, so that is an easy one.

According to the data, the next biggest factor is maintaining a healthy body weight. This probably makes sense. In order to maintain a healthy body weight you have to eat sensibly and exercise, so it is not surprisingly that this correlates with a longer life expectancy.

Heavy drinking reduces your life expectancy. Interesting, this does not mean that you should cut out alcohol. Non-drinkers actually have the lowest life expectancy. It’s not much worse than being a heavy drinker, but nor is it an improvement. The longest life expectancy are those that drink moderately.

Finally, diet plays a factor too. The EPIC study, and other studies around the world, are clear that processed meat takes years off your life. Red meat probably does too. Whether you can eat white meat and fish is less clear. Most studies seem to suggest they have little to no impact. However, the Loma Linda University study suggests that there could be measurable health benefits in being vegetarian. The NHS has published a summary. It concludes that vegetarians have a longer life expectancy, and there is some support for this in the EPIC study as well.

Voyage of the Beagle drinking game

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 | Books

Listen to the Richard Dawkins-ead edition of the Voyage of the Beagle audiobook and drink at the following points. Fill a tall glass with your favourite beverage and drink the appropriate amount per instruction. You’ll also need a spirit suitable for doing shots of.

Action Drink
Darwin goes somewhere new… One sip
Darwin mentions H.M.S. Beagle… One finger
Darwin expresses a colonial attitude… Two fingers
Darwin eats a specimen… Three fingers
Darwin shoots something… Finish the glass
Darwin uses his geological hammer… Do a shot
Darwin describes something as beautiful because it looks like England… Do a shot

Is it time to hit the bottle?

Sunday, September 7th, 2014 | Health & Wellbeing

Last year, Business Insider and Time wrote about how non-drinkers die significantly younger than moderate (or even heavy!) drinkers. Non-drinkers and heavy drinkers are similar, while moderate drinks enjoy the longest life expectancy.

Of course I knew about similar studies already. These results have been floating around for a long time but it is difficult to apply it personally. Drinking is associated with being social and non-drinking is often associated with being a pessimist. Both of these factors would lead to drinkers living longer. However, those are all overall trends – whether I drink or not, I am still quite social (I think) and a pessimist.

However, Time then also linked to a 2009 study that indicated that non-drinkers are also at the highest risk from depression and anxiety. If true, the best think for your mental health would be to drink moderately. This study wasn’t controlled for underlying health conditions, so again it is difficult to draw conclusions about how to live my life.

Pacific Standard also wrote a lengthy article looking at a lot of different factors. They note that the biggest meta-analysis which looked at over a million people confirms the same results – drinking is the healthy option. Though again, it fails to control for underlying health problems that stop people from drinking.

I don’t mean to wine on about it…

Monday, August 11th, 2014 | Science

…but wine tasting it a load of nonsense.

I will point out at this point that I do know how whine is spelt. However, as this is a post about wine, I have deliberately used an out-of-context spelling for this purpose. I realise it is a shame to have to point this out, but it will save some of you from having to write a tedious comment.

Anyway…

In 2012 I wrote about how people could not tell the difference between cheap and expensive wine. Multiple studies have now shown this. But what about wine experts? Surely they are good at determining whether a wine is a good one or not?

Apparently not, according to Robert Hodgson, writing in the Journal of Wine Economics, according to The Guardian. Most judges cannot consistently tell if a wine is good or not, and the judges that manage it vary from year to year – no judge is able to be consistent. It seems that even the experts are not able to tell whether a wine is any good or not.

Kick the Drink… Easily!

Sunday, May 18th, 2014 | Books

Jason Vale’s book “Kick the Drink… Easily!” suggests that it is easy for someone to stop drinking because there is no such thing as an alcoholic. Alcohol completely leaves your system within 10 days so the idea that it is a lifelong problem is “brainwashing”. Once you remove it, you can just stop drinking.

It was an interesting read, though I do not agree with all of it.

He makes a lot of astute points. Alcohol gets a special treatment among recreational drugs. When you say you don’t drink, people ask you why. Nobody has ever asked me why I don’t take crack. Alcohol is a drug and it messes up the human body.

It also tastes like piss. We all know it. We all had that first drink, it was horrible. But we kept at it because it was the socially acceptable thing to do and gradually built up a tolerance to the horrible taste. But at the end of the day it is still a poison that our body does not like.

It goes on. Does it make you more sociable? Probably not when you think about it. People slur their words, withdraw themselves from conversation and become violent. 75% of stabbings involve intoxication. It’s expensive. It’s had for our health. It makes us feel horrible the next day. Why then do we do it?

I don’t agree with all his points. For example, it could offer a pleasurable effect. Being “numb to the world” as it he puts it, could be thought of as pleasurable if you are not happy with your live.

It also does grease the wheels of social interaction. While I do not think being intoxicated actually does make it any easier for me to talk to new people at parties, or make me a more interesting or lively person, it does help many of us get together with long-term partners.

As for his tenet that there is no such thing as alcoholism, that is less clear. Mainly because nobody can really agree on what alcoholism is.

Overall, I think it makes a good case against alcohol. It is more a large collection of anecdotes than a well cited review of the evidence. However, we all know that this evidence is out there. The book is designed to convince people to stop drinking, and people often respond better to anecdotes than hard evidence.

Kick the drink easily

Although, that does appear to be a quote from the Daily Mail on there.

The Packhorse

Saturday, March 1st, 2014 | Friends, Life

Last week we ventured into The Packhorse for a few beverages. I have traditionally given it a birth as it seems unlikely that you would get a seat given it is a lovely traditional pub right in the centre of town. However, it turns out we were able to accommodate our large party (eventually) even on a Friday night.

The food is alright too, as I describe in the Leeds Restaurant Guide.

Atheist Society social

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 | Humanism

I for one will be very disappointed if Monique doesn’t change her profile picture to this.

IMG_0656 IMG_0653 IMG_0658 IMG_0659