Sunday 18 March 2018

The thing is... Your 30 second guide to everything: Alcohol

Illustration: Eorna Walton
Illustration: Eorna Walton

Emily Hourican

What: That's the easy bit. Booze, basically. Beer, wine; increasingly fancy cocktails with the kinds of ingredients more usually seen in Michelin-starred kitchens. The question today is not so much What, as Whether (to drink or not)?

Why: Because alcohol has been problematic for a long time, in terms of how much, if any, is optimum to drink; "A few glasses of wine - good? Or bad? Discuss..." Recently though, the jury is more decided than it used to be, and not in alcohol's favour.

Why Now: Because cultural shifts mean that young people in Ireland, finally, drink less than their parents. And because the bad news seems to be stacking up. We all know 'too much' booze is bad, but the latest research shows that even in moderate quantities, alcohol is a significant factor in increased risk of breast and colon cancer; that it causes brain changes that may lead to memory loss; and, most recently, that giving alcohol to pregnant mice affects brain development not just in the next generation, but in the two after that. Even so, there are still a few lone voices in the wilderness, saying alcohol may actually be good for heart health, and that those who drink 'in moderation' are happier and live longer than those who are teetotal.

How: Either by drinking the 'odd glass' of whatever you enjoy, or cutting that odd glass out, depending on which bit of research you favour.

Who: Everyone from Plato to Virginia Woolf has extolled the virtues of alcohol; increasingly though, the young, the fit and the famous are against it. J-Lo, Blake Lively, Shania Twain, and Tyra Banks are all committed teetotallers.

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