Tis’ the season not to be too merry!
As we hurtle towards the season to be merry, it’s time for my yearly diatribe against its excesses, particularly alcohol. Whilst the occasional tipple is unlikely to cause concern, there really is no need to emulate the late comedian W.C. Fields:.
Like Fields, one can always find any old excuse to drink. In the Middle Ages, ale may have been safer to drink than water, due to the fact that much of the water in towns was contaminated by sewage and bearing in mind, that unlike us, the Anglo Saxons didn’t have ready access to Evian water, or San Pellegrino.
In more recent times, much has been made of the fact that red wine contains antioxidant compounds including resveratrol and quercetin (from the grapes). These flavonoids are known to have anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. Yet the same could be said for red grape juice – plus it’s cheaper and less likely to give you a hangover. For those who must remain inebriated, I might just tackle hangover cures next time…
The Department of Health recommends men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day and women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day. One unit of alcohol is equivalent to half a pint of ordinary strength beer, lager or cider. A glass of wine may contain anything from 1½ -3 units, depending on glass size and strength of the wine.
Habitual binge drinking at weekends puts considerable strain on all your organ systems, for as soon as you get drunk, you have exceeded your body’s ability to detoxify and it is sure to let you know about it. The message is therefore: don’t use all those units up in one go! In fact, don’t worry about using them up at all because even 2 units a day can indicate a mild dependency. You can test whether you have a healthy relationship with alcohol if giving up the booze altogether for a few weeks doesn’t cause you any problems.
Although there has been a decline in reported alcohol consumption overall, a recent study found the British consume more alcohol per person than those in Germany, the US, Australia, India and China. Binge-drinking is of particular concern in the UK. This is bad news for the next generation as studies show that babies born to women who drink whilst pregnant are at higher risk of brain damage and developmental disorders.
Whichever way one tries to look at it, the fact remains that alcohol is a potent ‘anti-nutrient’. Too much of it dehydrates, affects mental capabilities, causes weight gain, damages the liver and stomach and predisposes to other serious health risks. Even moderate drinking significantly impairs vitamin and mineral status because alcohol not only destroys these nutrients but disturbs digestion and absorption. Also, as we all know, alcohol contains only ‘empty’ calories and suppresses your appetite at the expense of nutritious foods.
Time perhaps to quote Jerome K. Jerome and rest my case until next year:
“We drink one another’s healths, and spoil our own.” Jerome K. Jerome