Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's BOND who is shaking

If criminal masterminds don't get him first, 007 will likely succumb to alcoholic liver disease

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Just because I make myself martinis while taking a bath, you think I have a problem?

"No Mr. Bond -- I expect you to die... slowly, of cirrhosis or other alcohol-related complications."

James Bond's weekly alcohol intake is over four times the advisable maximum alcohol consumption for an adult male, concludes a paper in the British Medical Journal: "He is at considerable risk of developing alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis, impotence," they add, as if this were not 007 they were talking about, "and other alcohol-related health problems, together with being at serious risk of injury or death because of his drinking."

The paper, by three U.K. physicians, is ostensibly trying to call attention to the problems associated with heavy drinking -- and take some of the shine off of the super-spy's more deleterious habits. After all, they note, 2.5 million deaths around the world every year are attributable to alcohol consumption.

Still, if the researchers want to be accused of hating fun, this was probably a solid move.

To determine whether the character really is an alcoholic, they conducted a semi-scientific survey of all 14 of Ian Fleming's Bond books (not the movies). They determined he averaged 92 alcoholic units per week, which amounts to four times the recommended limits for an adult male. Many studies have indicated people tend to underestimate their own drinking substantially, implying his self-reported numbers may not even reflect the real seriousness of the problem. On days on which Bond was "able" to drink -- when he wasn't, say, imprisoned by a dastardly, booze-hating super-villain -- he consumed some alcoholic beverage on 75 out of 87.5 days. These numbers, they say, are conservative estimates.

If Bond were to be evaluated using the CAGE questionnaire for alcoholism, he would score three out of four -- enough to merit an intervention, certainly. There are times Bond admits to feeling better when he drinks less, other fictional characters have noted or criticized his drinking, and he feels the need for a morning "eye-opener" every now and then. As for feeling "bad or guilty about your drinking," as the CAGE questionnaire also asks? Well, the doctors conclude: "It is likely that an international spy and assassin cannot spend too much time worrying about remorse, so we are not surprised that there are no documented instances of alcohol-associated guilt."

What about Bond's drink of choice? Our very concerned medical investigators say the most iconic aspect of James Bond's drinking habits is also related to severe alcohol problems. His preference for a "shaken" martini may be related, they believe, to an alcohol-induced tremor that affects 007's ability to actually stir a drink.

-- Slate

Levitan is a freelance science (and occasionally other things) writer. Follow him on Twitter.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2013 0

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