Archive for the ‘beverages’ Category

Eating and drinking in Europe: part two

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

I may switch to red wine

I've been reflecting about our wine drinking in Europe. Here I normally have one glass of sweet white wine (e.g., Riesling Spatlese) three times a week.  It's very rare that I'll have a second glass and when that occurs it's almost always at home. When we're at an evening event we routinely have a "designated drinker" and a designated driver. That's been our pattern for more than twenty years, ever since I saw an Army senior physician, about to move into a choice command position, make the irrevocable error of over-consumption of liquor at a party.

I've noticed a few months ago that other countries have considerably lower blood alcohol limits for drivers than ours in the United States: that altered my own behavior. Rarely in the past, if we were going to spend three or four hours at a party, I might have one drink at the start of the festivities and drive home some hours later. That no longer makes sense.

However, in Portugal, we almost always walked to restaurants and we almost always drank red wine: vino verde (I discovered this meant "young wine", not "green wine), Port or regional products. We were sitting next to a German couple at one delightful meal and started talking about our imbibing habits. They had a white wine bottle on their table while we were trying a local red . They said at home they usually have wine with dinner and drink a bottle every three days. On vacation, they were drinking a bottle a night.

We brought a half bottle back to the hotel and finished it the following evening sitting on the third-story terrace.

Normally, if I do have a second glass of wine I feel a slight buzz. That wasn't happening on this trip. When I thought about it I realized we weren't drinking standing up at a reception, but sitting down at a prolonged meal. Our typical dinner in the States lasts an hour; here we averaged two and a half hours. So both the length of time and our food intake played a part in moderating the effect of the alcohol we were consuming.

We're home now and back to our normal pattern. We ate at our favorite local restaurant yesterday and I had a Thai Ice tea and no wine.

I'm not suggesting any of you should start drinking wine if you don't now, and for those of you who do drink wine now I'm certainly not pushing for increased amounts (having seen far too many cases of cirrhosis). The medical data for a favorable effect of moderate red wine consumption is suggestive, but not definitive as I mentioned in my comments extracted from a Mayo Clinic website. At age seventy, with no history of overconsumption in my family, I'm choosing to err on the side of  the vino. I may even switch from white to red wine.

The "tippling" point

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

one too many

My wife clipped an article from The Wall Street Journal last week and stuck in my "read this, Peter" stack she keeps. I got around to it yesterday and was impressed enough to do the background research. The writer had looked at the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and focused on the beneficial effects of moderate alcohol consumption.

Well that caught my attention; I drink a glass of wine two or three nights a week, rarely drink two and never more than that

The author of the short article, Stanton Peele, is a psychologist, attorney and writer on addiction recovery. He is a PhD, JD who has written nine books on addiction and has a different view than the "Disease Model" that many of us were taught in our medical training. His take is  the "Life Process Model"in which addicts use their drug of choice to cope wih life. I did note that eleven years back some of his research was sponsored by the Distilled Spirits Council and the Wine Institute  (their support of his work ended in 2000).

Okay that made me a sceptic, but I decided to read the section on alcohol in the recently released 2010 DGAC. It begins by emphasizing the hazards of heavy EtOH intake, quoting a 2009 study attributing 90,000 deaths a years to alcohol "misuse" in the United States. It also estimates that 26,000 deaths were averted (I like that term better than prevented since eventually we all die) by moderate EtOH consumption.

The traditional definition of moderate is one or two drinks per day for males and one per day for females. A lot of people exceed those levels with 2009 and 2010 studies showing estimates of 9% of men and 4% of women drinking heavily.

So what's the good stuff assuming you're an adult, not pregnant, don't have a drinking problem and don't have disease that are exacerbated by alcohol? it appears from extensive reviews of the medical literature that moderate drinking isn't associated with weight gain (remembering that EtOH is "empty calories and you still have to eat a balanced diet). Also moderate evidence supports less cognitive decline with age in moderate drinkers and strong evidence "consistently demonstrates" a lower risk of coronary heart disease in moderate drinkers. Bone health as shown by the incidence of hip fractures appears to be improved by moderate drinking.

MVAs and drowning as well as falls are more likley with heavy drinking, but the risk for these is less well estbalished with moderate drinking.

There's even a section on lactation and breastfeeding; Alcohol reduces milk production and decreases infant milk consumption for three to four hours after alcohol is consumed, but the DGAC concluded that after age two to three months, an infant's exposure would be negligable if the mother waited three to hour hours after consuming a single drink before breastfeeding.

And of course nobody is urging you to start drinking if you don't already.

So I'm going out to dinner with my wife and a friend tonight and will order a glass of wine.

But she's going to drive home.

Water, water everywhere and how much should we drink?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

My wife was really looking out for me yesterday. She read and clipped out an article from USA Weekend's HealthSmart section with the title "4 crucial tips for managing

A standard eight-ounce glass of water

your weight." They came from THE DOCTORS, a daytime TV show I've never seen (I don't watch much TV anyway).  The show apparently has four physicians, a pediatrician, an Ob-Gyn doc, an ER doc and a plastic surgeon.

The tips seemed reasonable: drink water; stay consistent; get good sleep and log on to keep pounds off. I've written a post on sleep and weight, believe in consistency (but it's my one sore spot, especially on vacations ), keep a record of my weight on a regular basis (but not online) and drink lots of water.

Now that one caught my eye; I drink three very large glasses (30 oz each) of lime water a day and often drink water before starting to eat. I've read that some think that even the standard recommendation of eight glasses a day is excessive, but my habit started when I had vocal cord issues and a senor speech therapist suggested I drink a large quantity lime-flavored water every day.

my 30-ounce glass next to the standard one

Now there's some data to support my idiosyncrasy of having some water at the start of a meal. A study done by researchers at Virginia Tech and reported at a recent national meeting compared two groups of subjects aged 55 to 70. Both groups were on a low-fat, low calorie diet. The research subjects in one group drank two cups of water before each meal; those in the other group didn't.

This was a twelve week study and the water drinkers lost more weight. Then the scientists followed their progress for a year. Not only did they keep weight off, they even lost a little more.

There's a catch; this doesn't work for young dieters. The speculation is that older people's stomachs empty slower and I'd tie that in with feeling full and choosing not to eat more.

Several other university groups commented on the subject. One said that those who drink water don't drink sugar-filled beverages and, on the average, consume 75 to 90 calories less a day. That adds up over the course of a year; 100 calories less a day would equal a little over ten pounds of weight loss. The other wondered if people who aren't on an actual diet would keep up their water-drinking pattern longterm.

So far I have, for twelve years, but for different reasons. I think I'll be more deliberate in my pre-meal water drinking and see how that helps.

Don't overdo this if you try the idea; too much water intake can be dangerous. Two cups before meals sounds reasonable, but my large water intake isn't for everyone.

Too much cheer for the holidays and other times

Friday, November 26th, 2010

We had a family Thanksgiving dinner for nineteen people yesterday and served beer, wine, non-alcoholic punch with fresh fruits and some sparkling fruit drinks. I had a glass of Riesling and later tried some of the fruit punch, I didn't pay much attention to what others were drinking, all but four were adults ranging in age from early twenties to mid-seventies.

Fat Tire beer, my favorite

When we cleaned up later, it seemed there were a lot of beer bottles, but I realized at least five adult men drank beer and nobody had more than two bottles. I don't usually drink beer myself (although I'll make an exception for Fat Tire, a superb locally-brewed beverage) and normally have one glass of wine with a meal three times a week. Once in a great while, if we're at home, I'll have a second glassful.

I realize we don't drink much compared to some of our friends, but haven't seen anyone drink to excess or appear drunk at any of the parties we've been to in years.

Then I read the December issue of the Harvard Heart Letter and saw that a South Korean study had revealed the hazards of binge drinking. I'd thought of that as primarily a problem for college students; we live in a university town and over the years have read of several binge drinking tragedies.

I found the original article online in a publication called Science News and then followed a link to another article, this one an Irish study. Both were sobering, to say the least.

I've read a number of articles that say drinking in moderation may be heart-healthy. The key word is moderation and we're talking about one drink a day for women and two for men. Binge drinking implies much more alcohol consumption, four to five or more drinks a day or six at any time.

It's not just an issue for teens and college students; a CDC study said one in seven adults admitted to binge drinking.

The Korean study focused on men with poorly controlled hypertension and said their risk of cardiovascular death or  stroke was markedly increased, more so if they drank very heavily. It followed over six thousand people for twenty-one years.

The Irish study compared middle-aged men's drinking patterns in Belfast and France, with the Irish men drinking two to three times as much. Those who were binge drinkers had almost twice the risk of a heart attack or death from heart disease over a ten-year followup period.

The French more typically drink wine with meals; The Irish drink more beer and spirits and I would think they do so in pubs without much food being consumed.

So I personally think it's okay for most adults to drink in moderation (that's assuming they don't have a personal or family alcohol problem and understand what moderation means).

But drinking to excess, especially binge drinking, is a totally different matter. These new studies show yet another hazard for those who overly imbibe.

So if you plan to have a glass of holiday cheer, keep it at a minimum and, of course, don't drive if you drink.