Thursday, 21 May 2015

BBC Horizon Documentary on Drinking

Is it my imagination, or is the news constantly full of reports on the dangers of alcohol at the moment?

Perhaps it's like when you're attempting to get pregnant. Before you start trying for a baby you don't see any pregnant people. Then, as soon as you begin trying to procreate, the world is filled with women overtly achieving what you have not yet managed to.

They are everywhere, flaunting their fecundity at you, smugly sticking their large bumps in your face. Or was that just me?

Well, this feels similar. I guess that before I gave up drinking I deliberately ignored news articles on the hazards of alcohol, whereas now I lap them up. (Well, I have to have something to lap up).

So last night was a corker! I was in the comfiest PJs, on the sofa, under a duvet, clutching a hot chocolate and indulging in a whole hour of documentary on the BBC about yucky alcohol.

Oh joy! Revel in holier-than-though smug-pantsiness.

If you missed it and want all the gory details, it'll be on BBC I-Player, or here is a link to an article written by one of the presenters/guinea pigs Dr Alexander van Tulleken (thankfully he is sexier than his name suggests). But, if you just want to quick top line summary, then here you go:

Dr Alex is an identical twin. (That could have caused you problems if you were watching while still drinking. Aarrghhh. I'm seeing double! Close one eye...).

He and his twin conducted an experiment where they drank nothing for four weeks, then they both drank the government recommended amount for men (21 units) each week for four weeks.

The twist was that one twin drank all of his units on the Saturday and then nothing for the rest of the week. The second twin, meanwhile, drank 3 units a day, every day.

21 units is the equivalent of 21 shots of vodka, or 3/4 of a bottle of whisky or 2 bottles of wine. To me, 21 shots of vodka sounds like quite a lot, as does 3/4 of a bottle of whisky. I'd always congratulated myself on 'rarely drinking spirits.' But two bottles of wine? In a whole week? Are you kidding?

And, remember, these were two large blokes. The equivalent amount for us ladies is 14 units. That's less than one and a half bottles of wine per week, or one measly glass a day!

So, these chaps had their livers and blood etc tested after four weeks AF and they were super healthy. Then they started on the steady drinking vs 'binge' drinking.

The first week the 'binge' drinker drank his 21 vodka shots over 4 hours. By the end he could barely walk. His twin had to get him home. He started singing in the taxi, invited the camera crew to a karaoke bar, then, when he got home, started crying, and passed out.

In the morning he couldn't remember any of it. Yikes! That is what 21 units does to 'normal' people! I could have drunk the female equivalent (1.5 bottles of wine) and barely appeared drunk! But, apparently, the damage done is the same.

In subsequent weeks, the binge drinker spread his units out over the Saturday. A couple of beers with lunch, a cocktail in the afternoon, and a bottle of wine in the evening.

Binge? That was my regular Saturday and Sunday, as well as every single day on a holiday.

The 'steady' drinker drank his measly 3 units (1 large glass of wine) every day. (For women, the equivalent would be one small glass).

Was he happy? Oh no! He said that, by the end, he was craving more. One glass just wasn't enough. (Tell me about it!). But even that small amount was messing up his sleep patterns.

So, after all this, they went back to the doctor.

In just 4 weeks of drinking no more than the government guidelines, a teensy weensy 2 bottles of wine a week, both of their livers were functioning significantly less well.

They also both showed signs of a huge increase in the markers of  'inflammation', which can lead to cancer, heart disease and dementia.

Bizarrely, both bingeing and steady drinking had the same impact. However, the binge drinker also had three times the amount of 'bacterial endotoxins' in his blood than his brother.

This means that the binges had damaged the lining of his stomach and intestines and were causing poisons to leak into his bloodstream.

Crucially, the binge drinker was tested at the end of the week. After six days completely alcohol free. Nowhere near long enough to repair the damage caused by the binge, it transpired.

I wonder what the impact of 'binge drinking' every day of the week would be? Perhaps best not to dwell on that one...

So, if you're already on the sobercoaster, take a moment to revel in your wisdom....

You, you gorgeous goddess, are surfing the zeitgeist! You are ahead of that curve! You are a thing of wondrous purity and grace.

If you haven't joined us yet, then what the hell are you waiting for???

Love SM x


  1. Hey SM I guessed you would be watching horizons to same here including pjs and hot choc - I was also thinking it's the programme just 10 weeks ago would have had me grabbing the remote and channel flicking whilst whistling loudly with my fingers in my ears !!! It did occur to me that had I been watching it I would have been eternally grateful I didn't live in Hong Kong and would be contemplating a move to the USA !!! We didn't need further proof that we have now chosen the right path but I did go to bed with a grin on my face thinking yay for us !! X

    1. I was thinking about you too, Kags! x

  2. Terrifying isn't it, the stuff you can't see...

  3. I wonder sometimes how I'm actually still alive! I'd said I could drink about between 3/5 bottles of wine a week. Sweet lord, that seems like so much. Thank god for my classy Aldi bottle for 6 euro...I used to watch these programmes and then FREAK out about my drinking. I'd lie awake worrying about my liver and my kids (when I die at 50 due to an alcohol related disease...)

  4. Well, the good news last night was that the body is amazing at repairing itself when you do stop (esp the liver). And I drank at least twice as much as you! SM x

  5. God I LOVE reading your blog...informative,honest and funny! YOu rock sober Mummy..

  6. Thanks for the summary. Good to know they didnt sit on the fence too much!

  7. I was watching that as well and wondering if you were too. It was quite an eye opener wasn't it? It appeared to be an eye opener for the medical people as well, as they intend to fund another study and re-evaluate the current guidelines on the amount safe for consumption. I too went to bed with a big smile on my face. Yay us. x

  8. Today is my day 4. I have read your entire blog. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Well done on day 4 relentless! You won't regret it! Please stay in touch and let us know how you're doing! SM x

  9. I can only say from experience that most of my minor health complaints went away with sobriety. Stomach problems, regular migraines, rashes, PMS, fatigue, bruising (lol). I could go on.
    And I was a healthy eater and regular exerciser.

    At least when I feel crappy now I know it's not self inflicted.

  10. Great post SM, and very interesting. I agree with MTTS, I sometimes wonder how I'm still alive after the amounts of alcohol I consumed! Our bodies are truly amazing things! I can't wait till my health starts to improve. I am always looking for tablets or a quick fix to make me feel better. Who knew that by just stopping drinking may fix some of my health issues. Like Anne says, I am waiting for the magic to happen! A x

  11. Hi, The thing you are talking about in the first paragraph has a name - you can read the full article it's called the Baader Meinhof phenomenon - but I digress - lovely blog and am following your story - inspirational stuff!

    1. Thanks for the link Brendan! Great article. And thanks so much for reading and commenting. According to my stats, over 20% of my readers are men, but few ever speak up! Love SM x

  12. Hi SM Recentley started reading your blogs and finding them very inspiring and motivational. I'm away for few days so missed watching the horizon program but will catch up when home.
    This is my first ever attempt to reply to a blog but hoping by reading your blogs and comments from others will help me follow the same journey. Thank you SM x

    1. Yay! Welcome TFC and congratulations! Stick with it, and with us. You can do it xxx