Like most everyone else in the British Isles, I was disappointed to discover last week that booze really is bad for us... at least, that's the latest line from the Government, as they promoted the updated guidelines on low-risk drinking for the UK. The new Department of Health limits state that men, like women, should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, or face a significantly increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
I cannot help but feel that this kind of 'definitive new position' should come with a caveat, that these guidelines are subject to change, alteration or complete U-turn, depending on the discovery of new scientific evidence. I mean isn't that what science is all about? If we knew everything, then we would all live forever, right?
Maybe I'm clutching at straws. The fact is my spirits have been well and truly crushed in the last few months, as the medical fraternity has warned us off some of life's most simple, wonderful culinary treasures. Bacon sarnies, Iberico ham, hamburgers were first, and now even the old reassuring adage about a bit of red wine being good for us has been discredited by the medical establishment. What is the world coming to? All this depressing news is enough to drive you to drink. Oh, the irony.
In another strange twist of fate, this January is the first year, ever, that I took it upon myself to go teetotal for the whole month. Not for charity or anything like that, just to see if I could do it. It occurred to me that since I turned 18, some 20 years ago, I've probably not been through an entire month without a single drink. Not that I'm an alcoholic or anything. However, like most people in this country, I do like a few pints now and then... or a glass of wine or two... or both and a few shorts if I'm really getting stuck in... which is rare these days... honest guv.
Anyway, now that the powers-that-be have decided that drinking is just plain bad for us, it got me thinking that this self-imposed booze ban is a little more important than it might have been, had they not come out with this new set of findings.
This wasn't simply about personal will power anymore, but actually my health was at stake. This kind of extended, self-imposed prohibition may now have to become the norm, rather than the exception. If we are to believe the latest position on alcohol consumption, we all need to drink less and take long periods with no boozing whatsoever if we are to live well into our golden years.
There is, though, other evidence to consider before we all usher in this new world order. Enter the 'French paradox'... Yes, those lovely, long lunch loving neighbours of ours are here to save our taste-buds once again.
For those of you that aren't familiar, the French paradox is based on other 'scientific evidence' that, despite consuming higher than average amounts of saturated fat, replete with plenty of cheese, red meat and red wine, the French have comparatively low levels of heart disease, amongst the lowest in Europe in fact.
There's hope there then, for those of you who enjoy the finer things in life. However, unfortunately this 'paradox' has also been the subject of further counter-research which suggest that it is, in fact, a 'statistical illusion' based on an inaccurate interpretation of the evidence.
Oh well, it was good while it lasted. But just who are we supposed to believe?
I guess the point is that even though we shouldn't ignore the dangers of drinking, it's important to keep a bit of perspective about our perception of this type of news when it comes out. Clearly, as a nation, we probably drink too much, and we should cut down. However, that doesn't mean we need to start feeling massively guilty about a having a few drinks now and then. That should go for eating bacon, ham and hamburgers too.
What doesn't help is that by getting bombarded with a constant flow of mixed messages from all manner of sources we naturally become suspicious of any new 'official stance' about the implications of our lifestyle choices on our health. This inevitably dilutes the impact of any sensible advice that comes out and many simply ignore it.
Perhaps what the 'egg-heads' need to do is all get together and come up with a definitive, one voice, view on all of these lifestyle related health issues, once and for all. Granted, it won't be easy. Like any international forum, it will require a lot of exhaustive discussion and collaboration... So perhaps they should all meet up in the pub to start with, to have a friendly chat about their goals.