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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

I'm Bond, Jamesssh Bond

Posted: 04 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Doctors explain why James Bond prefers his martinis 'shaken, not stirred'.

SCIENTISTS know that the best way to make a vodka martini is to mix the ingredients with a thin wooden spoon – it combines the ingredients effectively without raising the drink's temperature the way a metal stirrer would.

So why would James Bond, the world's most sophisticated martini drinker, routinely order his cocktail "shaken, not stirred"?

A trio of British medical researchers believe they have the answer: The heavy-drinking 007 most likely suffered from an alcohol-induced tremor that forced him to shake his martinis. In fact, they argue, the British Secret Intelligence Service agent with a license to kill consumed so much alcohol that he ought to be dead.

"Ideally, vodka martinis should be stirred, not shaken," the researchers report in the British Medical Journal's (BMJ) recent Christmas issue. "That Bond would make such an elementary mistake in his preferences seemed incongruous with his otherwise impeccable mastery of culinary etiquette."

The BMJ's Christmas issue is known for its wacky medical reports, but the authors who diagnosed James Bond took the matter quite seriously.

Vintage Classics has reissued Ian Fleming's

The researchers used the books by Sir Ian Fleming as their source material, not the movies. Two of the 14 books were excluded from the analysis – The Spy Who Loved Me was dropped because it was told from the point of view of a waitress who doesn't introduce Bond until two-thirds of the way into the story, and Octopussy and The Living Daylights failed to make the cut because it's a series of short stories. – Filepic

For starters, they used the books by Sir Ian Fleming as their source material, not the movies. Two of the 14 books were excluded from the analysis – The Spy Who Loved Me was dropped because it was told from the point of view of a waitress who doesn't introduce Bond until two-thirds of the way into the story, and Octopussy and The Living Daylights failed to make the cut because it's a series of short stories.

The other 12 books were read by the study authors, curled up at home in "comfy" chairs.

As they read, the researchers took detailed notes about Bond's activities, including his drinking. They looked up drink recipes on Wikipedia to figure out the ingredients in each of his cocktails.

In cases where the storyline was vague – i.e. Bond "got drunk" or there was an order to "bring in the drink tray" – the researchers made "relatively conservative estimates in the context of his overall drinking habits", according to the study. Then they crunched all their numbers.

The study authors calculate that the total elapsed time in the 12 novels added up to 123.5 days, during which 007 consumed 9,201.2 grams of pure alcohol. (That's not the combined volume of his many cocktails – that's just the amount of 200-proof ethanol.)

This works out to 521.6 grams of pure alcohol per week, or 74.5 grams per day.

For the sake of comparison, the British National Health Service advises men not to exceed 168 grams of alcohol per week, with no more than 32 grams on a single day, and at least two days per week that are alcohol-free.

The spy who drank too much graph 0501

Among Bond's 123.5 recorded days, 48.5 were alcohol-free. But on 36 of those days, he was not alcohol-free by choice: On these occasions, he was locked up in jail, laid up in a hospital, or doing a stint in rehab and unable to imbibe.

Taking those days out of the equation, the 9,201.2 grams over 87.5 days averages out to 738 grams of pure alcohol per week, or 105.1 grams per day.

But that's just an average. The peak of 007's drinking came on Day 3 of the mission described in From Russia With Love. During that 24-hour period, 007 drank a whopping 398.4 grams of pure alcohol, the study authors calculated.

To consume that much alcohol, you'd have to down about 14 vodka martinis (assuming they're made with the 100-proof vodka, the strongest option listed on the handy cocktail content calculator from the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one of the National Institutes of Health).

If you're drinking something more tame, like beer or wine, it would take about 25 glasses to get the same amount of alcohol.

These drinking habits would put Bond at serious risk of some serious diseases, including hypertension, stroke, depression and sexual dysfunction, "which would considerably affect his womanising," the study notes.

Most important, the study authors say, Bond's risk of developing liver cirrhosis is at least seven times greater than for a non-drinker.

A person with cirrhosis dies at age 59, on average, according to the BMJ study.

Fleming, a heavy drinker and smoker, died of heart disease when he was only 56, and "we suspect that Bond's life expectancy would be similar", the researchers write.

Bond himself had even lower expectations: In Moonraker, he says he expects to be killed before he turns 45 and is forced to retire from the "00" section of MI6.

Perhaps this helps explain why: In Goldfinger, Bond drives home after consuming 144 grams of pure alcohol in an evening with Auric Goldfinger.

And in Casino Royale, 007 has 312 grams of alcohol before participating in a high-speed car chase that lands him in the hospital for two weeks.

"We hope that this was a salutatory lesson," the study authors write.

Getting back to the issue of Bond's shaken martinis, the researchers cite a 2009 study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry that pegged heavy drinkers as having a four times greater risk of developing an essential tremor compared to light drinkers.

Essential tremor is an unintentional rhythmic muscle movement of one or more parts of the body, according to the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke. The most common body part affected is the hand, the institute says.

"James Bond was unlikely to be able to stir his drinks, even if he would have wanted to, because of likely alcohol-induced tremor," the researchers conclude.

Bond's heavy drinking may have been a response to his job stress, as well as his need to rub elbows with folks who aren't exactly teetotallers, the study authors note: "We appreciate the societal pressures to consume alcohol when working with international terrorists and high-stakes gamblers."

But that's no excuse for being such a lush, the researchers add. "We would advise Bond be referred for further assessment of his alcohol intake and reduce his intake to safe levels."

They are doctors, after all. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Positive Parenting: The lowdown on peptic ulcers

Posted: 04 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Learn to identify the symptoms of these painful stomach sores in children.

PEPTIC ulcers are sores that develop in the lining of the stomach or duodenum (upper part of the small intestine). They occur when the mucosal layer that protects the lining of the stomach and/or duodenum is eroded.

Once the mucosal layer is too thin to provide adequate protection from the acids in the stomach, the lining becomes irritated.

Peptic ulcers are most common in adults above the age of 45, though it can affect people of all ages, including children.

Signs and symptoms of the disease include: severe and persistent abdominal pain, bloating, nausea or vomiting, unexplained weight loss or changes in appetite, black tarry stools (this may be an indication of bleeding in the stomach or small intestine), and vomiting blood (that may appear red or black in colour).

Contrary to popular belief, coffee, citrus fruits and spicy foods do not cause peptic ulcers, though they may aggravate symptoms.

2005 Nobel Prize laureate in Physiology or Medicine and University of Western Australia Helicobacter pylori Research Laboratory head Prof Barry Marshall.

Barry J. Marshall (pic) and J. Robin Warren discovered the bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, and its role in causing gastritis and peptic ulcer disease in 1982. For this, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2005.

In truth, no single cause has been found for these ulcers, though it is understood that a spiral-shaped bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, is an important cause for the disease.

Because of their shape and the way they move, it is easier for these bacteria to penetrate the protective mucosal lining of the stomach and produce substances that will weaken the lining. This makes the stomach vulnerable to damage from gastrointestinal acids.

If the amount of acid in your stomach is increased, or the mucosal lining is damaged, you could develop an ulcer.

Researchers believe the bacteria can be transmitted through:

  • Contaminated food and water (oral-faecal route).
  • Close contact, such as kissing or exposure to vomit that contains H. pylori.

To determine if your child has H. pylori infection and peptic ulcer disease, a doctor can conduct various tests, such as a urea breath test, to detect the bacteria. If clinically indicated, an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy is performed to look for an ulcer.

Another cause of stomach ulcers is the regular intake of pain relievers like aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Some 15-30% of patients who are exposed to NSAIDs develop gastro-duodenal ulcers.

These drugs can cause ulcers as they interfere with the stomach's ability to protect itself from stomach acids. With the stomach's defences down, digestive acids can damage the sensitive stomach lining, thus causing ulcers to develop.

The good news is, there are various effective treatments currently available for peptic ulcers. They include:

  • A course of antibiotics to kill the H.pylori bacteria that is lodged in your system.
  • Medications to reduce stomach acid and protect the lining of your stomach and small intestine.
  • Medications that block acid production and promote healing.

Peptic ulcers also have a tendency to reoccur, so be sure to take all your medications as instructed by your doctor to prevent ulcer recurrence.

Here are some lifestyle changes that you can make to accelerate your recovery from peptic ulcers:

  • Go for a healthy diet that is full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Manage your stress as this can worsen the symptoms of a stomach ulcer. If you know what your sources of stress are, try to avoid them.
  • Stop smoking as this interferes with the protective lining of your stomach, making it easier for an ulcer to develop. It also increases stomach acid.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol because an excessive intake of alcohol can irritate or erode the lining of the stomach and intestine, which will cause inflammation or bleeding.

If someone in your family displays any symptoms of peptic ulcer, seek immediate medical attention. A delay in diagnosing and treating these symptoms can lead to complications, and possibly surgery.

With timely medical attention and treatment, almost all peptic ulcers can be treated.









Dr Christopher Boey Chiong Meng is a professor of paediatrics and consultant paediatric gastroenterologist. This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association's Positive Parenting programme and supported by an educational grant from Vitagen. The opinions expressed in the article is the view of the author. For further information, please visit

Bringing home your placenta

Posted: 04 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

The state of Oregon in the US now allows mothers to take placentas home from the hospital.

NEW mothers will now be able to leave Oregon hospitals with two bundles of joy – one in a car seat, the other in a cooler.

The first, of course, is the baby. The second, thanks to one of the more curious laws that went into effect with the new year, is the placenta.

Many cultures have long revered the meaty organ, whose chief duty is to provide nourishment and oxygen to the foetus. Traditional Cambodian healers call the placenta "the globe of the origin of the soul" and believe it must be buried properly to protect the newborn.

Today, an increasing number of women across the US call the placenta lunch, or at least an important nutritional supplement. These new mothers, including Mad Men's January Jones, believe that eating the tissue in pill form, raw, or perhaps in a smoothie, can help ease postpartum depression.

The problem with what is officially known as "human maternal placentophagy" – beyond the fact that there are no studies proving its medical value – is that guidelines for dealing with the placenta differ from state to state, and even, from hospital to hospital in the US.

One person's sacred object is another's medical waste.

Which is where Oregon state representative Alissa Keny-Guyer comes in.

The Portland Democrat, who has a master's degree in public health, said she was first approached about the placenta's possibilities and problems by Dr Melvin A. Kohn, who was Oregon's public health director at the time.

Dr Kohn is married to a midwife, who told him that "there were a lot of women who wanted to take their placentas home from the hospital" for consumption, burial or other ritual purposes, Keny-Guyer said. "But there was no kind of uniformity about it. There's a lot of Caucasians who believe they should have the ability to take home the placenta. There are also strong Asian and Native American traditions."

But as Dr Kohn and Keny-Guyer worked to make their state's official placenta practices more culturally sensitive, she said, they stumbled upon an even thornier issue: "We found out from the legislative counsel that it is illegal under Oregon state law to allow people to take their placentas."

So, early in 2013, Keny-Guyer introduced HB 2612, which would let new mothers or their representatives take the placenta home from the hospital under most circumstances. The bill passed unanimously in both the state House and Senate, was signed by Governor John Kitzhaber in May and took effect at midnight Tuesday.

It is unclear whether the placenta-centrism of Oregon – and the greater Portland area in particular – is in sync or at odds with the region's reputation as a hub of vegan and locavore (one who primarily eats locally-produced or grown foods) culture.

One thing, however, is undeniable, said Jodi Selander, founder of an international organisation called Placenta Benefits, which tracks and promotes placenta consumption in pill form: "Oregon is very progressive, and I just love that they're making it a legal right" for a woman to lay claim to her own placenta "as opposed to having it held hostage in the hospital because of the fear of liability".

Although other states unofficially accept the practice, Selander said, "most states don't have laws in place regarding the placenta at all."

When Raeben Nolan, a Portland-based birth doula, started offering placenta services to her clients six or so years ago, she was pretty much the only game in town. Now, she counts more than 30 "placenta ladies" who offer advice on the use of the placenta.

The law, she figures, will only make her industry more popular, if it has any effect at all.

Tree of Life Placenta Services, the three-woman company Nolan founded, can turn a woman's placenta into a tasty tortilla soup. Or bake it into a rich lasagna. Or create a ritual for burying the organ.

The most common service Tree of Life provides, however, is called placenta encapsulation.

"We steam it really gently over ginger, a very traditional postpartum herb, and lemon," Nolan said. "There's a tea left over that tastes surprisingly good. We have the mother drink that tea. It's very nourishing."

She then takes the steamed placenta, slices it thinly and places it in a dehydrator on low heat. The result resembles "placenta chips", she said. "Then you grind it up and put it into little gel caps. They're easy to fill and easy for mums to take."

Nolan, who consumed her placenta after the birth of her second child, swears by the organ's ability to help women heal after childbirth and "deal with motherhood".

So does Amanda Englund, who has worked with more than 300 Portland-area mothers to make frameable prints and nutritional supplements out of their placentas.

After the birth of her son, Lev, Englund consumed half of her placenta in smoothie form and the rest as capsules.

"It's really uncommon for mums to want to eat it like a steak," Englund said. "In pill form, it looks like a vitamin." Few here believe that simply changing state law will thrust placenta consumption into the mainstream. Because legality, they say, isn't the main problem.

"This is brand new for Western medicine," said Heather Rauh, a Portland-based birth doula who plans to have her placenta processed into pills when she gives birth in the spring. "The biggest hurdle is the 'ick' factor." – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services


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