Thursday, 3 January 2013

Dry January: day 3

A conversation in 22nd century America, from Woody Allen’s 1973 film Sleeper:

Dr Melik: This morning for breakfast he requested something called "wheat germ, organic honey and tiger's milk."
Dr Aragon [chuckling]: Oh, yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life-preserving properties.
Dr Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak or cream pies or ... hot fudge?
Dr Aragon: Those were thought to be unhealthy ... precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

For those who don't like to take conventional wisdom at face value, the last few days have been interesting. I was watching a programme on Channel 5 that stated quite firmly that moderate consumption of alcohol was good for you, and that teetotalism is the less healthy option. They were, as you'd expect, careful to add warnings about excessive and binge drinking. I know this isn’t a new message, but it coincided with two other interesting things I read or saw in the news.

Bottled water, that symbol of healthy living, is less safe than tap water. Tap water has to be tested daily, whereas the sources for bottled water need only be checked monthly. Tap water has a small amount of chlorine to keep down bacteria, while bottled water does not. Seeing how long bottled water may be stored in warehouses, and then on shelves in shops or pubs, there is ample opportunity for bacteria to multiply. Furthermore, the pollution caused by millions of single-use plastic bottles is something healthy drinkers of bottles water like to turn a blind eye to. I’ve always viewed bottled water as a rip off; it’s nice to know I was right.

Research published in the American Medical Association’s journal suggests that people who are slightly overweight are less likely to die prematurely than people with a “healthy” weight. This news item has, predictably but inaccurately, been illustrated by pictures of people who are extremely overweight, and it has provoked something of a furore for going against prevailing thought. It is perhaps unwise to read too much into a single piece of research, but it does throw up some questions. Besides, it seems logical to me that, just as you can’t compare someone who enjoys a few pints with someone who drinks a bottle of spirits or more every day, you similarly can’t compare someone who is slightly overweight with someone who is morbidly obese.

In relation to all three items, it’s good for the thinking processes that received wisdom be questioned from time to time to prevent it becoming an unchallengeable orthodoxy. The test of whether something has reached that point is when the reaction to the questioning of conventional views is not “I disagree with you” but “How dare you say that!” That was much of the reaction to the items on alcohol and weight. In the other, it was mainly the bottled water companies who were defensive.

I hope this information is of interest, especially to anyone who was thinking of joining Alcohol Concern’s Dry January campaign. So far, on the third day of this 31-day campaign, 3982 people have signed up: only 99.9937% of the population to go.


  1. I had my first pint of the year at 10:50 a.m. on 1st January in the Trackside, Bury. I've off to Derby on Saturday to watch Tranmere and have booked a Travelodge to maximise my enjoyment of the beer delights on offer. Later in the month I've booked a Travelodge for two nights in Manchester to co-incide with the CAMRA National Winter Beers Festival. I'll also be following my usual weekend regime of drinking in Wirral/Chester/Liverpool. I may join Dry Jan for the odd day or two though.


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