Most People seem to agree that we cannot and do not want to go back to the past, but the reason given is often wrong; that time has moved on and what was can never be again. The truth is that we cannot go back to what we never left. Our home is the earth, our time the Pleistocene Ice Ages. The past is the formula for our being.
(Paul Shepard)

Monday, 13 January 2014

Drinking and Longevity

I think it was last year that I broke an over eight year dry spell, I gave up drinking mostly for social reasons. I never had an occasional glass as I never especially cared for the taste of alcohol and in fact was a bad drinker in that being quite shy would drink at social occasions. The Spartans had a means of scaring young Spartiates from getting drunk by forcing Helots (slaves or serfs) to get paraletically drunk and then introducing the wretch to the Spartiates. Without wanting to be rude watching salary men going home to their wives on Tokyo trains had much the same effect.
 Not drinking was actually quite easy and in fact occasionally  walking home through British streets late on a weekend night had much the same affect as Japanese businessmen. Also the culture in the fencing community I was part of  was one of quite immoderate use of alcohol, which further had the affect of making my teetotal stance seem wise.
 My wife was never entirely pleased about my not drinking of course it limited my social life and if you don't drink pubs become most unwelcome places to go, weddings become interminable and in fact you start to realise how much dross and dullness is propped up by alcohol.
"You've got antifreeze!"
Moreover people who are drunk are excruciating and more than a little dangerous.
 Something must have changed in me though as I started drinking beer (ales) again, cider, mead and other goodies including my favourite, whiskey. I blame Vitalis! After watching one of his videos about traditional people's alcohol consumption I decided to buy a cider. My first drink in over 8 years left me ready to die I felt dreadful. Somehow over the months I found myself drinking again though, not much in fact I rationalised that I was drinking for the sake of my health, teetotalers suffering from poorer health outcomes.
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 Ancestrally alcohol has a very long association with humanity perhaps right back to the origins of farming, if you can make bread making beer is a doddle. The Hadza made an alcohol from honey and wild fruit can ferment on the ground. Elephants and monkeys have been known to seek out this natural cider to get drunk. It has been suggested that the vegetable residue found on Neanderthal teeth and at sites like Shanidar in Iraq was from alcoholic porridges. Hallucinogens are also taken by any tribes that live with them in their locale, indeed reindeer seek out fly agarics and get "high". Far from recreational such use is often an elaborate aspeect of the culture and part of lengthy and safe ritual practice. It does seem that "getting out of it" is quite normal for humans and other animals. Natural does not mean ethical and cannot be taken to mean safe. Native Americans also used tobacco and few would argue that tobacco is safe, though interestingly they (like many traditional peoples) apparently managed to use the plant without the cancerous effect it has had on the rest of the world.
 Ancestral habit cannot be used to justify behaviours in the modern world "paleo" if that word means anything anymore is a framework not a dogma.
  I never cared for cider but like mead a lot, however much of what is sold as "mead" in Britain is actually honey flavoured wine. If you want mead check with the maker to check that that is what you are getting.  What I ended up drinking was ale, from the incredible and wonderful selection of ales Britain has. In fact real ale might (does) represent England's greatest contribution to the world. My Christmas intake while far from excessive has left me considering how useful alcohol is in a health strategy, staying moderate with whisky is impossible. I have been looking on this 6 month period as a bit of an experiment. In addition to any hormonal effects the calorie content of ale has certainly led to what I might call a "softening" of the middle. "Evidence" for positive effects of alcohol consumption are completely mired in epidemiology. Given that "we" don't accept this non-science when its practitioners find red meat, saturated fat, big feet or grey hair guilty of killing us dead and blowing up our favourite chair why on earth would we accept epidemiological claims that one drink a day is optimal?
 This "study" is one of my favourites and is pretty much representative. In it we find that teetotalers, who also cannot walk a few miles, can't make their own dinner, can't wash themselves etc die at a younger age than those who drink......! Do not fear even when adjusted the figures still showed that moderate alcohol consumption was healthy. Of course they adjusted for smoking obesity etc not the inability to a walk a mile or do the washing up!
"If I can't do this I'll die at 35"
 I believe despite the reservatrol fraud that there is some evidence that red wine is healthy in moderate amounts but I think I have taken this foray into the world of alcohol far enough. The health benefits if indeed they exist appear to be small and the financial cost and potential downsides of very easily over consumed calories, carbs and potential manboobs (I can't stand wine) tip the balance in favour of abstinence. Especially when coupled with the social consequences of alcohol including the ability to enjoy weddings.
 Of course giving up alcohol in Japan was fairly easy I was keen not to screw things up with my (now) wife and Japanese alcoholic drinks were not as enjoyable as English ales or mead. Much like occasional sparring occasional drinking is not especially wise as the immediate consequences of alcohol can be undignified. Hopefully stopping drinking won’t mean I will suddenly become unable to do the washing up……here’s hoping!
 (be warned there is strong language in the video!)

                                             Slainte Math!


  1. I suspect, as someone who drinks a fair bit, that the correlation between abstinence and reduced longevity is mostly noise. On the other hand, I do find people who have the tendency to overdo things like drugs, alcohol, extreme sports, etc, to be more interesting personality types. They can also be some of the most annoying people on the planet of course.

    1. "On the other hand, I do find people who have the tendency to overdo things like drugs, alcohol, extreme sports, etc, to be more interesting personality types"
      I have definitely noticed that!

  2. Yeah, you should keep your dietary regiment. Then look for something that fits your situation so it doesn't have adverse effects. It's amazing how quick the findings develop and mature into something else unlikely and previously not contemplated. Seize the knowledge of these information so that you can plan an even better day.

    Environmental Diseases