Posts Tagged ‘alcohol’

Is alcohol bad for you after all?

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018 | Science

The Lancet has published a global study looking at alcohol consumption and the news for drinkers is not good.

Previous research indicated that alcohol consumption came with protective benefits and led to moderate drinkers living longer than non-drinkers.

However, this new paper that takes data from 195 countries over a 16 year period finds the opposite: all-cause mortality is correlated with increased alcohol consumption and in order to gain the most years of disability-free life, you should abstain from drinking.

Many people have reacted with a sarcastic “wow, putting poison into your body is a bad thing? Who knew?”

I think it is important to tackle such views because they are potentially dangerous. What someone suggesting when they say that is that they believe that the intuitive explanation should take precedence over what the evidence says.

Consider a parallel between vaccinations. An attenuated vaccine is a vaccine that uses a live strain of the disease. For example, when you have the MMR vaccine, you’re literally having a little bit of measles, mumps and rubella pumped into you. If you didn’t understand the science behind it you would say “it’s obviously a terrible idea to inject a disease into myself.” But, of course, every intelligent person now agrees that it is a good idea.

In this case, though, it would seem that the balance of harm from alcohol may outweigh the benefits. Good news for people like me who struggle to hit their alcohol consumption quota.

Introducing Lucozale

Saturday, June 30th, 2018 | Distractions

Lucozale is the world’s first isotonic pale ale. When you feel you need the bitter taste of a good ale to remind you why you’re here, and to numb the pain in your muscles, Lucozale is the sport drink to reach for.

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


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.

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.


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.

Intoxication and consensual sex

Monday, December 24th, 2012 | Religion & Politics

Last week, I was showering, while thinking about how silly it would be for someone to mount the argument that any level of intoxication removed a person’s ability to consent to sexual activity. Then, by coincidence, the next day I saw some tweet that exact argument.

Of course it wasn’t a very good argument, because you only have 144 characters, and therefore no space to actually make an argument to back up the claim you have stated. But even with more space, it would seem difficult to make such an argument.

Before we dive into the politics here, let us first remember that under British law, any gender can rape any other gender (or indeed the same gender), so there is no split down gender lines here.

Under British law, you are still responsible for your actions, if you get drunk. it’s called voluntary intoxication, and it is no defence to a crime. If you knew that you would become intoxicated when you took the substance, and with alcohol you do know, then the law deems it your own fault if you do something stupid.

Presuming we want to live in a fair society with only a single standard that applies to everyone, you would therefore assume the opposite was true – if you get drunk and do something you later reget, but did it all voluntarily, you can’t then blame someone else for what you did. We all have to take responsibility for our actions.

But some advocates would have you believe that once someone has consumed so much of a drop of alcohol, they are no longer responsible for their own actions, and can later change their mind, and decide they were raped instead.

This is nonsense. What we’re talking about here is completely consensual sex – ie, a boy gets drunk, explicitly agrees to come back to my place and have sex, then wakes up next morning, changes his mind and says he was raped because he was unable to consent due to intoxication.

This brings up a whole new round of rational dilemmas – most notably, if we’re not going to hold people responsible for their own actions while intoxicated, then surely if the alleged rapist is also intoxicated, how can you hold them responsible, given you have taken up a position that states people are not responsible for such behaviour?

To differentiate between them creates a double standard.


Sunday, October 28th, 2012 | Photos

After 13 months, the drought is over. What better way to celebrate, with some champagne (pronounced sham-pag-en I believe).


Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 | Science

At last year’s Edinburgh Science Festival, Richard Wiseman demonstrated that people can’t tell the difference between expensive wine and cheap wine. It was covered in both The Guardian and The Telegraph. In fact, one of the funniest things about the whole business was some of the snobbery from the Guardian’s readers.

“Expensive is when you get to the £50 – £100 plus range. That’s when you really taste the difference.”

“Let’s do this with £2.99 against £299 instead. I think you might find the results aren’t quite the same.”

“£10 is expensive eh?
Pour them a glass of 2000 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc (the besr white I have ever tasted) at £60 a bottle and see if you get the same responses.”

“I ‘ve had £100 a bottle wine I CAN TELL THE DIFFERENCE!”

The wine community didn’t seem to appreciate the results. Wine of the Week bolding told his readers that new evidence would be just around the corner.

WineOfTheWeek is aghast at such claims of label snobbery, and will bet his Tommy Hilfiger jeans that contradictory evidence will soon follow.

I presume he meant to say “against”. Unfortunately for him, more than a year on, and the new evidence has still yet to arrive. Wine Anorak did a slightly better job of arguing against, pointing out that members of the public weren’t given two wines to directly compare, but only one, and asked to say whether it was a cheap or expensive one.

Actually, this makes perfect sense though. You never (or at least I never) buy two bottles of wine, do a quick taste test and throw the bad one away. You just buy one bottle of wine (with others perhaps to follow later) and your enjoyment is based solely on that. As Richard himself said, “to keep it as realistic as possible, we presented them with a single glass of wine and they had to say whether inexpensive or expensive”.

Even if you want to poke your nose up at Richard’s experiment, a full paper has been previously published on the topic by the University of Minnesota. Here is what they concluded.

Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. In a sample of more than 6,000 blind tastings, we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. For individuals with wine training, however, we find indications of a positive relationship between price and enjoyment. Our results are robust to the inclusion of individual fixed effects, and are not driven by outliers: when omitting the top and bottom deciles of the price distribution, our qualitative results are strengthened, and the statistical significance is improved further. Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.

So there you have it. You can’t tell the difference between an expensive wine and a cheap wine. So you might as well pick up the cheap bottle. Indeed, with the money you’ll save, why not buy two bottles of the cheap stuff, taste them, and throw the least pleasant one away.