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Alcohol, Schmalcohol

By Tim Bean

New research from the Boston University Medical Centre in the US reveals what many of us have known for some time: even just a couple of glasses of wine a day can pose a serious long-term threat to your health (Metro, 16.02.11).

That piece of news may come as a surprise to those of us in business, where drinking regularly forms part of the accepted business culture, who’ve embraced the popular notion that moderate drinking makes alcohol a healthy substance to drink.

Newsflash: It’s not.

Alcohol is by definition a neuro-toxin, a diuretic, a depressant and a Testosterone suppressant – amongst other things. That doesn’t even sound good.

Yet we fool ourselves into buying into the “Myth-information” that so long as you’re not bingeing, drinking less, but more frequently, is healthy.

There is also a strong cohort in the upper echelons of society that believe a fine wine is better for you than a rubbish cheap one.

Wrong again.

Yes, we like to think we’re somehow more refined, educated, aware or appreciative of something that’s been crafted and nurtured over the years so it forms a substance perfect in texture, colour, “nose” or taste.

Yet once it runs over our tongue and olfactory sensors and passes into our guts, the body doesn’t know or care any different. “Alcohol, Schmalcohol: neuro-toxin, diuretic, depressant, Testosterone suppressant – now let’s get it the hell out of the system.” Even if you only drank from £500 bottles of wine – if you have too much you’ll be as sick as a dog, the same as the guy who gets smashed on lager. That’s a clue.

So this belief is completely false, and I believe we accept this notion at our peril.

You see it all hinges on our definition of “healthy”. In my book healthy nutrition is any thing that by consuming it advances or contributes to your health position – and that includes quantity. So even drinking water can be unhealthy by that definition – especially if you drink too much.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Everything in moderation”, and to a certain degree that’s OK, but what is being referred to is the degree to which we can get away with it without our health suffering. That’s a very different thing to advancing your health position.

Even imbibing small quantities of alcohol, regardless of its form, will affect your mental acuity, mood, energy levels and therefore your overall health position – and possibly your lifespan. Just ask the relatives of the 40,000 people who die every year in the UK from drinking alcohol.

Now I’m not against drinking alcohol – bet that surprised you. No, I think it’s OK to have a drink on an occasion. But understand this: occasions happen occasionally.

And if, through adhering to a largely healthy eating and exercise regime, you were advancing your health position by ten steps, then every now and again take a step backwards – you’re still 9 steps ahead.

And in my book that’s OK, because it’s part of a balanced and socially functional lifestyle overall.

Whether that’s something that has a place in business culture – especially if you consider yourself a high-performer – is a whole new debate again.

But don’t for a minute believe that alcohol is a healthy substance – in any quantity.

It ‘aint.