Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Health drinks

I recently came across an article headed "6 Health Benefits of Drinking Beer". Beer apparently:
  1. Reduces risk of heart disease.
  2. Helps the kidneys.
  3. Is packed with nutrition.
  4. Reduces risk of diabetes.
  5. Reduces risk of cancer.
  6. Increases brain health.
The full article explaining why is here

This is probably no surprise to most people who read blogs like this, but what interested me was the sheer hostility, almost aggression, with which some people responded to this article in the comments beneath. Alcohol is a poison, one wrote, describing an horrific childhood with an alcoholic father who beat his wife. There were other comments in a similar vein, though perhaps not quite as extreme, but tending to reiterate the line that alcohol is evil - full stop.

I drew three conclusions from this.

Firstly, that many of those hostile to drinking cannot differentiate between drinking and getting drunk. The two are not alike: a habitual drunkard is like a glutton, except they're fixated on drink instead of food. However, if the article had been about the health benefits of certain foods, I really doubt the comments beneath would be warning about the dangers of gluttony, leading to obesity, heart problems and possible early death. It seems that some people cannot stand the idea that alcoholic drinks have any redeeming qualities at all.

Secondly, people believe that alcohol provokes a certain type of bad behaviour. It doesn't, as the social anthropologist Kate Fox has made clear:  "The effects of alcohol on behaviour are determined by cultural rules and norms, not by the chemical actions of ethanol."  In other words, if we have conditioned ourselves to think we should get aggressive after drinking, then that's what will happen.  Similarly, if we think we should get flirty, than that will happen too, and so on. I wrote in more detail about this in 2011.

Thirdly: that the notion of "each to their own" is not shared by militant non-drinkers, although this observation is probably, to use Basil Fawlty's phrase, stating the bleeding obvious. I should add that in my experience not every non-drinker is anti-alcohol.

I have sympathy for anyone who has suffered from drunken aggression, but the fact is that violent drunks are not transformed by alcohol: they are simply violent people who have learnt to associate aggression and violence with drink - a learnt behaviour, not caused by drink. Blaming alcohol for bad behaviour is also a convenient excuse if trying to appear apologetic after sobering up, or when in court. Kate Fox wrote: "The problem is that we Brits believe that alcohol has magical powers - that it causes us to shed our inhibitions and become aggressive, promiscuous, disorderly and even violent. But we are wrong." Her full article is here.

Interestingly, I've come across another recent article headed, "Is Drinking Red Wine Actually Good For You?" which states that red wine may protect the heart and help control cholesterol levels, among other benefits. Again, not really news.

Both articles do emphasise moderate drinking, but that didn't prevent the hysterical overreaction of some of those commenting on the beer article. It's clearly a subject about which emotions can run very high to the point of anger, aggression, highly emotive personal histories being exhibited to all and sundry, and unrestrained insults - and all from people who swear they don't drink a drop. It seems that habitual sobriety can result in extreme reactions too - perhaps they should take it in moderation.


  1. Ironically, the major cause of alcohol related violence is people who continue to spread the myth that alcohol causes violence.

    So perhaps the militant neo-pros should take a hard look in the mirror and ask themselves how many lives they have ruined by continuing to spread this pernicious lie.

  2. I hadn't quite thought of it like that, but it's a good point.

  3. I've also found an article called ’5 Ways To Use Leftover Beer’. Not a problem for most readers here, I suspect, but just in case!


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