Ditching the drinks during Dry July

It’s the start of the month of July. For many in the southern hemisphere that means lots of snow, thermal undies, down jackets and snuggling up to a fire with a glass of fine red wine, while our northern hemisphere friends undoubtably think about beaches, sunblock, ice cream and a frosty lager.

An alternative approach to the month, however, is as a great detox opportunity – this month is also known (in New Zealand, at least) as Dry July, a challenge to go without alcohol for the whole month. To quote the Dry July website, “Dry July is a non-profit organisation determined to improve the lives of adults living with cancer through an online social community giving up booze for the month of July.”

Those who take up the challenge are known as DJ’s, or Dry-Julyers. You can either do it on your own as a personal challenge, or formally sign up and have a go at raising funds for the Dry July charity, thereby potentially helping those living with cancer towards an improved quality of life.

Refrain from pouring your favourite tipple for the month of July. (© All Rights Reserved)
Refrain from pouring your favourite tipple for the month of July.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Dry July started in 2008 as a challenge among friends, but even in its first year close to a thousand people participated and more than $ 250 000 was fundraised. The initiative has gone from strength to strength, and to date more than $ 11 million has been raised.

Even if you only enjoy the occasional social tipple, giving up for a month is not easy – there are always special occasions, social events, parties and more where we typically enjoy a beer or a glass of wine. It’s all about self-discipline, for your own health and wellbeing, and to support a good cause. Not to mention the amount of money you can save by ditching the drink for a month!

So, cheers to a Dry July. I see lots of water, fruit juice, coffee and tea in my immediate future!

Drink Wine Day – keep it moderate and reap the benefits

Today, my research tells me, is Drink Wine Day – a day that I (and many people I know) enjoy celebrating a bit more often than only on the 18th of February.

The idea of the day is to celebrate the joys of wine, and specifically the health benefits that moderate wine consumption holds. More than enough has been written about the benefits of drinking wine – many of it, I sometimes think, by writers and columnists who are trying to make themselves feel better about their own wine habits.

Wine - it can be good for you, but watch out that moderation does not spill over into excess.(© All Rights Reserved)
Wine – it can be good for you, but watch out that moderation does not spill over into excess.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Indeed, it has been reported that the antioxidant resveratrol in red wine “helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol and prevents blood clots.” Other reported benefits include that it reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, lowers the risk of colon cancer, slows brain decline, cuts the risk of cataracts and promotes longevity. It may even lower the risk of depression in women.

The key, of course, is that all these benefits apply to wine consumption ‘in moderation’ – a difficult measure to quantify, as it varies from person to person based on age, gender and weight, as well as genetic factors. Most sources, however, seem to agree with the 2005 US dietary guidelines as well as the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation, which define moderate drinking as one drink (150ml) a day for women and two a day for men. Some guidelines consider anything up to four drinks a day to still be moderate. Different countries also tend to have different measures of moderation, with France appearing to be particularly lenient.

Personally, I think if we’re honest, each person pretty much knows, intuitively, what moderate alcohol consumption is. You may not want to admit it, but you know when you’re exceeding ‘moderate’. And the bottom line is, when you pass this point drinking wine is no longer good for you. It may be fun at the time, but it’s no longer beneficial, and any long term benefits that may be gained from moderate consumption is quickly lost through excessive drinking.

So here’s to wine; here’s to moderation; and here’s to a long and healthy life. Cheers!!

Celebrating International Beer Day!

With yesterday’s Champagne celebrations scarcely behind us, it’s time to start celebrating another tipple – today is International Beer Day!

This day is a global celebration of beer, and an opportunity to get together with friends to toast your local brewers and bartenders, in pubs and breweries around the world.

Buy people beer – it makes you more attractive!
(© All Rights Reserved)

Ever wondered why you find people more attractive after you’ve had a few beers? Sure, it is partially due to the fact that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, making you more open and friendly to others in general. There is, however, also an interesting scientific explanation.

Apparently, facial symmetry is said to have evolved as a measure of attractiveness as it signifies good genes. And apparently we subconsciously feel attracted to outward signs of genetic quality, to ensure better offspring. So, people are unconsciously drawn to people with more symmetrical faces.

Now in a study led by Dr Lewis Halsey of Roehampton University, a group of female volunteers were subjected to a range of tests before and after consuming alcoholic drinks. Among these was a test where participants were shown 20 sets of faces that had been manipulated so that one was symmetrical and the other not. After a tipple or two, people were found to be much less able to distinguish between the symmetrical and non-symmetrical faces. This effect proved directly related to the amount of alcohol consumed – the more tipsy, the less discriminatory participants became.

So, if you’re one of us normal guys or gals who lack the perfect facial symmetry to prove your genetic superiority, this day is especially for you. Have a beer, and while you’re at it, buy a round for those around you. Your popularity will increase plenty – trust me.

Have you heard the one about…?

Today is ‘Tell an Old Joke Day’.

It is also the day we commemorate the death of Sir James Chadwick (20 Oct 1891 – 24 Jul 1974), who was awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of the neutron.

So I guess my old joke for this special day kind of selects itself…

A neutron walks into a bar…
(© All Rights Reserved)

A neutron walks into a bar and orders a whisky.
The bartender pours him a stiff one.
“How much do I owe you?”, the neutron asks.
“For you?” replies the bartender, “no charge!”