Friday, April 5, 2013

A is for Antiseptic (and Africa) -- 187 lbs (-42) [30X]

Somewhere deep in the jungles of the Congo in 1950, Katherine Hepburn was puking her guts out in a bucket next to a piano. Everyone on location for the production of The African Queen had contracted dysentery from the local water supply--everyone except for the hardcore scotch-drinkers, Humphrey Bogart and John Huston. Hepburn would later remark “those two undisciplined weaklings had so lined their insides with alcohol that no bug could live in the atmosphere.” No bug indeed.

In 1986, Sheldon Cohen and associates set out to test the popular belief that smoking and drinking increase susceptibility to the common cold. After a thorough 3-year study, the hypothesis was confirmed for smoking, but the researchers were surprised to find that non-smoking drinkers caught the fewest colds. Not only that, but cold resistance increased with the number of drinks consumed.

There has been little follow-up since that first study*, published in 1993, since the US government only pays for studies intended to reduce per capita alcohol consumption. When such studies produce the opposite results, as so many have, there is no political incentive to probe further, so little is understood about the underlying mechanisms at work here. Why anyone should be surprised, however, is beyond me given how well alcohol works as an antiseptic and disinfectant outside of the body. It is well-documented how alcohol inhibits the growth and reproduction of many microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses, especially at concentrations of 60% to 90% in water. That suggests that drinking straight 40% whisky might be more effective at avoiding colds than beer, wine, or mixed drinks, and that higher proofs may be even better. But higher proofs could be more dangerous for other reasons, which is why so much more research is needed here, and why the political bias against such research is robbing the public of valuable knowledge that could be leveraged to increase productivity and decrease health costs.

Interestingly, I didn't know about any of this when I started dieting with alcohol, but rather I noticed a pattern that colds seemed warded off on the days I drank straight whiskey (as opposed to beer, wine, or mixed drinks). After that happened several times, I made sure I drank some straight bourbon or scotch every day, and thus the Whisky Diet was born. I finally did get one of the many colds that run through my family, but whisky still seemed to help me power through it. As Bogart said of the African Queen incident, "I built a solid wall of scotch between me and the bugs."

* Eriko Ouchi and associates recently published a retrospective study suggesting that resistance to colds increases with frequency, rather than quantity, of alcohol consumption.

[+] What I Consumed Since Last Post ...