A week ago, I penned an article for redOrbit about the potential effects of alcohol and how it could be responsible for extending telomere length, prolonging the life of cells and possibly leading to increased longevity. Of course, moderation would be key to that equation, and new research centered on everyone’s favorite super spy explains why too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing.
There’s never been a cooler leading man of fiction and screen than James Bond. He is the epitome of a high-pressure player, turning the most dire of situations into a victory for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And being introduced at a time when the accepted martini was stirred in a pitcher before being poured, he bucked tradition with three words: Shaken, not stirred. Today you would be hard pressed to procure Bond’s preferred potent potable any other way.
Published in this month’s Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal, researchers have highlighted how Bond’s propensity for shaken cocktails may not have been born of preference but rather necessity. And it has everything to do with the character’s existence as a functioning alcoholic apparently.
The idea for the study started when Dr. Patrick Davies was reading the original James Bond novels. From page to page he noticed Bond was rarely without a drink in hand. As he read on, he wondered if Bond would realistically have the capacity to perform, both in espionage and as a lothario, with the markedly high level of alcohol intake detailed in the books.
This led Davies and colleagues to embark on a detailed measurement of Bond’s alcohol intake and the potential health effects he could expect to experience.
Over a period of six months, the team read all 14 James Bond books, noting every alcoholic beverage consumed, using pre-defined alcohol unit levels to calculate overall consumption.
In situations where there was no “shaken, not stirred” headline to announce exactly which cocktail Bond was imbibing, the study authors made a conservative estimate of the amount of alcohol he was consuming. They also made note of days when, through incarceration, Bond was unable to enjoy an intoxicating beverage.
This is where we realize Bond was either a superman or a raging alcoholic. Taking out days when Bond was unable to get his delirium tremens-affected hands on a beverage, it was determined that his average alcohol consumption per week was 92 units. This figure exceeds four times the recommended amount of alcohol one should consume.
Additionally, the team found there were individual days when Bond would take in a staggeringly blurring 49.8 units. This would put him far above the legal limit for the operation of a car, or boat, or plane (or an electric toothbrush, for that matter).
Of the 87.5 days in the novels, Bond only abstained from happy hour for 12.5 of them. This, as noted above, was rarely because he needed a dry-out day but rather because he was incarcerated by nefarious characters who lacked the social grace to offer him even a Heineken.
To arrive at their final figures, the team looked over previous studies that have shown individuals will typically underestimate their own alcohol intake by around 30 percent. This, they say, means Bond could even have had weekly alcoholic unit intake as high as 130.
“The level of functioning as displayed in the books is inconsistent with the physical, mental, and indeed sexual functioning expected from someone drinking this much alcohol,” they write. “We advise an immediate referral for further assessment and treatment, a reduction in alcohol consumption to safe levels, and suspect that the famous catchphrase ‘shaken, not stirred’ could be because of alcohol induced tremor affecting his hands,” they stated.
With weekly alcohol intake four times higher than recommended, the researchers state Bond is at an increased risk of alcohol related diseases. These include alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis, impotence, alcohol-induced tremor and an early death.
The alcohol induced tremor, or delirium tremens, brings the researchers to believe that the all-too-common shaken martini being made in today’s pubs and bars was likely less a choice for Bond and more a necessity. Bond would have been unable to steady himself long enough to make a stirred martini.
With over 2.5 million deaths each year related to excessive alcohol consumption, too much of the drink has been recognized as a global health problem. But unless you are watching the film Leaving Las Vegas, chances are you will see a glamorized and positive portrayal of alcohol coming out of entertainment studios worldwide.
James Bond, it turns out, with his love of cigarettes, alcohol and women, should not be looked up to as a man who can do it all for love of country, all while coming off as the picture of cool. It’s important to remember that he is fictional and chances are exceedingly low that we will ever see him in a dimly lit recreation center room, styrofoam cup of steaming coffee in hand just before he stands to say, “Hi. My name is James and I’m an alcoholic.”