It seems hardly a week goes by without a report of some new scientific study telling us what we already know, or wish to believe. No other prepositional phrase induces eye-rolling quite like, “According to a new study …”
To wit, researchers at Northwestern University have just discovered people prefer attractive mates to ugly ones. And, brace yourself, a study presented at the Acute Care Cardiac Congress in October revealed that heart-attack victims who call an ambulance have a higher survival rate than those who don’t.
Personally, I prefer studies that support my louche lifestyle. In 2011, I glommed onto a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that suggested a low-salt diet could actually be a bad thing. Last week, JAMA came through again with new research that found slightly overweight people were likely to live longer than skinny people.
Oh, sweet, sweet science.
Research coming to the defence of us sinners is nothing new. When the television program 60 Minutes aired a segment in 1991 on the health benefits of red wine, sales of plonk in the U.S. jumped by almost 40 per cent.
More than 20 years later, a multitude of studies still holds that moderate consumption of alcohol in any form — beer, wine or spirits — can be good for your health.
Red wine still has a slight edge over other libations. That’s because red grape skins and seeds impart resveratrol, a compound some studies have linked to longer life expectancy and reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes. Encouraging as that may be, the jury remains out on the extent of resveratrol’s magical properties.
What is less in doubt is the benefit of regular and moderate alcohol consumption. Ethanol, the active ingredient in alcohol, affects the body in myriad ways. Reams of research suggest limited amounts over time can significantly improve cardiovascular health, brain function and longevity, among other things. In fact, conventional wisdom has it that moderate drinkers are generally healthier than those who abstain or drink little.
Again, the key words here are regular and moderate consumption. What does that look like? Much depends on body type and overall health, but a basic rule of thumb is one drink a day for women and two for men, a typical “drink” meaning a 341 mL (12 oz.) glass of beer, a 142 mL (5 oz.) glass of wine, or a 43 mL (1.5oz.) serving of distilled spirit.
Abstaining all week and banking your beverages for a binge on the weekend doesn’t wash. And it goes without saying that heavy drinking entails a host of health problems that nix any benefit.
Certainly, a proper diet and regular exercise will do far more than knocking back a snootful of booze every night. That said, I like beer with my sports; I enjoy a glass or two of wine with dinner; and my wife and I look forward to our weekly martini after work on Friday. If there is a healthy upside, so much the better.
With that in mind, here are three questionable “health” products for those considering swearing off the demon hooch after the holidays:
Rogue Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale (Oregon)
750mL, 5.6 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV), $15
Vegans will recoil in horror at this crazy beer, which counts actual bacon and maple syrup as brewing ingredients. Still, buried beneath its layered aromas and flavours of cured pork, smoky malt and maple syrup is (hopefully) sufficient ethanol to ward off the threat of diabetes stemming from such ale. Try pairing with pancakes and sausage.
Skinnygirl Margarita Tequila Beverage
750mL, 12.7 per cent ABV, $16
What’s in a name? This Skinnygirl product bills itself as “the margarita you can trust” to spare you the “guilt and calories” of, presumably, untrustworthy margaritas. However, with 125 calories to a 142 mL serving, this “tequila beverage” delivers more calories than a jigger of tequila, and pretty much the same calorie intake as your typical serving of wine or beer.
The redeeming value of this beverage — essentially a pre-mixed margarita without the ice — is the reassuring comfort only shtick marketing and alcohol can provide. Try pairing with Jenny Craig.
Fat Bastard Merlot (France)
750mL, 13 per cent ABV, $15
This fleshy red wine has flavours of blackberry and plum, and moderate tannins, suggesting the presence of resveratrol, which may or may not help ward off the risk of heart disease arising from pairing it with grilled steak.
Correction: My Dec. 27 column incorrectly reported the price of Vintage Dom Perignon as $5,910. This is the B.C. Liquor Stores price for a six-litre Imperial bottle, not a standard 750 mL bottle, which costs $213.49. My apologies.
© Copyright 2013