Is there a safe limit?

Alcohol is a toxin that kills cells such as microorganisms, which is why we use it to preserve food and sterilise skin, needles etc. Alcohol kills humans too. A dose only four times as high as the amount that would make blood levels exceed drink-driving limits in the UK can kill. The toxicity of alcohol is worsened because in order for it to be cleared from the body it has to be metabolised to acetaldehyde, an even more toxic substance. Any food or drink contaminated with the amount of acetaldehyde that a unit of alcohol produces would be immediately banned as having an unacceptable health risk

There is no such thing as a safe level of alcohol consumption. The idea that drinking small amounts of alcohol will do you no harm is a myth

Professor David Nutt/

The combination of  alcohol/acetaldehyde and calories/sugar is a potent double threat to human health that most drinkers are unaware of.

Why calories in alcohol are extra fattening

Alcoholic drinks are made by fermenting and distilling natural starch and sugar

Being high in sugar means alcohol contains lots of calories – seven calories a gram in fact, almost as many as pure fat!

Calories from alcohol are “empty calories”, they have no nutritional value. Most alcoholic drinks contains traces of vitamins and minerals, but not usually in amounts that make any significant difference to our diet.

Drinking alcohol also reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy. While we can store nutrients, protein, carbohydrates, and fat in our bodies, we can’t store alcohol. So our systems want to get rid of it, and doing so takes priority. All of the other processes that should be taking place ( including absorbing nutrients and burning fat) are interrupted.

With a pint of lager containing the same amount of calories as a slice of pizza, the calories soon add up

A pint of Heineken, 5% alcohol has 227 calories

A large glass of red wine, 13% alcohol has 170 calories

A Jack Daniels, 40% alcohol has 111 calories



I gotta get drunk..

Well I gotta get drunk and I sure do dread it

‘Cause I know just what I’m gonna do

I’ll start to spend my money callin’ everybody honey

And wind up singin’ the blues

I’ll spend my whole paycheck on  some old wreck

And brother I can name you a few

Well I gotta get drunk and I sure do dread it

“Cause I know just what I’m gonna do

I gotta get drunk, I can’t stay sober

There’s a lot of good people in town

That’d like to see me holler, see me spend my dollar

And I wouldn’t think of letting them down

There’s a lot of doctors tell me

That I’d better start slowing it down

But there’s more old drunks than there are old doctors

So I guess we better have another round

– Willy Nelson

The dark..

If you’re a farmer it’s a different story

Its  dark, wet, cold. The animals are always hungry. It’s a long time to the spring when stuff gets growing again

You never know what’s around the corner, just when you think you’re on top, something or someone is there  to knock you down

The pub could be miles away, but its the only respite. At least you can meet and chat and share.

For a few hours anyway, you’re not on your own

Its late by the time you get there, so much to be done. You have a pint, its well deserved

Whiskey too for the night that’s in it.

Trouble is 40% alcohol is just that, trouble

Alcohol is not a happy drug. If you’re feeling down it drags you deeper

Alcohol is highly toxic, it kills cells, so your health suffers

If anything happens to you, who’s going to look after the animals, the dog?

Who’s going to look after you?

This can be the blackest, bleakest time of year!

Party time..

West Coast Cooler, December 13

Colorful, trendy, cheery,  this poster is right on the button for party time.

“Wearing these heels feels like being in love or walking on a plug”

West Coast Cooler are targeting young females obviously, selling alcohol

Only there’s no mention of alcohol anywhere on the advert

Drinking can get you drunk, out of control.

Or like the young lady on the poster….flat on your back

Watch out!

Sunday morning..

I was just finishing mucking out when Mary came into the barn and asked;

“Would you like to go on a hack to Kilruddery? I want to give Lily some exercise”

The look on my face said it all, “Good, get Honey in, tack her up, we leave at 10”

Soon we were on our way with the two horses in the box behind, Kilruddery only 15 minutes away from Enniskerry

Kilruddery is a huge sprawling place on the East coast, ideal for cross-country

We walked them through the dense forest, the November colours all golden reds and russets

Out into the close-cropped winter fields, a steady trot takes us to the higher ground, on the side of the Little Sugar Loaf

Mary greets some hill walkers making their way to the top, turns to me

“Now keep Honey close to me, Lily will take off, but you must try to keep up”

Lily is Mary’s hunter , a huge grey Irish Sport Horse with a big gallop.  Lily is hard to hold back, snorting, throwing her head, dancing on the spot

Honey is also a grey, a  bit of a plod, with a big heart.

We are on a high track cantering amid the thick gorse. Lily spooks sharp left startled by a shook up pheasant in the undergrowth. Mary sits well. Honey doing her best to keep up

Mary shouts back, “Have a look over your shoulder” Not easy trying to sit on a galloping horse.

I glance  quickly at Killiney and over the grey stillness  of Dublin Bay

We are fast cantering now and Mary again points out  – Greystones this time

Another glance over the  Irish sea.  The mountains of Wales, so far yet so near. Amazing

Honey is running out of puff, Lily far out of sight. When we catch up we’re looking out over Glen of the Downs and the tiny golfers in the distance

Mary says, “I couldn’t hold her, Lily is so strong, too much thoroughbred in her..”

Honey is trying to recover, taking fast shallow breaths. We go back  through the sheep covered countryside into the forest. Mary is happy, says its good for the horses, letting them gallop away in their own place.

I think she is relieved to have stayed sat on Lily all the way

Two hours later we are back at the box. Tired but exhilarated.

The drinking man couldn’t see all this

The drinking man wouldn’t have been here!

Guinness, like no other..

Guinness, like no other, November 13 002

This is another example of clever marketing by Diageo. There is no mention anywhere of the key ingredient, 4.5% alcohol. They don’t have to. Slogans like “Created like no other”, “Made of More” do the job just as well.

Bus shelter, Dublin  November 2013
Bus shelter, Dublin November 2013

Diageo allowed to “Paint the Town Black” with Guinness

Diageo invented “Arthur’s Day” in 2009, to mark the 250th anniversary of the opening of Arthur Guinness’s first brewery in Dublin on September 26th. Since then it has become a ‘pseudo national holiday” marked with music sessions in most pubs and a significant lift in sales of Guinness.

We raised our first objection to the slogan Guinness used to promote Arthur’s Day in November 2012 with the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI). The complaint was rejected outright. ASAI said “We do not consider that the advertising (Paint the Town Black) involves encouragement by the advertiser to overindulge in the product.”

We raised our second objection in March 2013 when Guinness used the slogan again, this time to promote St Patrick’s Day. The following invitation was from their website;

“Paint your town black this St Patrick’s weekend, St Patrick’s Day is coming. Get your friends together to paint the town black for the celebration of the year”

We complained this campaign blatantly encourages overindulgence in alcohol. The slogan “Paint the town black” is coined from the phrase “Paint the town red”. The website “” describes the slogan “Paint the town red”….”to engage in a riotous spree”. The allusion is to the kind of unruly behaviour that results in much blood being spilt.

This time ASAI accepted the complaint and took it to Diageo. There was a long period of engagement between ASAI and Diageo. In September 2013 we received notice to say; The secretariat recommends that “the complaint should be upheld” and the following action be taken; “The complaints Committee told the advertisers not to use the phrase “Paint the Town Black in any future advertising”

We were very pleased at this decision, it was our first success in many complaints about alcohol advertising

We then received a letter from the ASAI on the 25th October 2013 to say “The Complaints Committee has since reviewed the case and taking account of all submissions has decided that the complaint should not be upheld”

We expressed our shock and  disappointment at the about turn and asked how could the Complaints Committee of ASAI overturn a recommendation by the secretariat.

We also said Diageo too must be surprised and delighted with overturned recommendation

Which means Diageo are allowed to use “Paint the Town Black” for all future  Guinness campaigns where and when they wish

It only takes a glass of wine..

“Yet we are talking about several hundred thousand types of protein, perhaps a million, each unique and each as far as we know, vital to a sound and happy you. And it goes on from there. To be of use a protein must not only assemble amino acids in the right sequence, it must then engage in a kind of chemical origami and fold itself into a very specific shape. Even having achieved this structural complexity, a protein is no good to you unless it reproduces itself and proteins can’t. For this you need DNA. DNA is a whizz at replicating – it can make a copy of itself in seconds – but can do virtually nothing else. So we have a paradoxical situation. Proteins can’t exist without DNA and DNA has no purpose without proteins. Are we to assume then, that they arose simultaneously with the purpose of supporting each other? If so, wow”

“Proteins are what you get when you string amino acids together, and we need a lot of them. No-one really knows , but there may be as many as a million types of protein in the human body, and each one is a little miracle. By all the laws of probability proteins shouldn’t exist. To make a protein you need to assemble amino acids (which I am obliged by long tradition to refer to here as “the building blocks of life”) in a particular order, in much the same way that you assemble letters in a particular order to spell a word.”

“Proteins are the workhorses of all living systems; as many as a hundred million of them may be busy in any cell at any moment. That’s  a lot of activity to try to figure out. Worse, proteins’ behaviour and functions are based not simply on their chemistry, as with genes, but also on their shapes. To function a protein not only must have the necessary chemical components, properly assembled, but then must be folded into an extremely  specific shape. “folding is a term that’s used, but its a misleading one as it suggests a geometrical tidiness that doesn’t in fact apply. Proteins loop and coil and crinkle into shapes that are at once extravagant and complex. They are more like furiously mangled coat hangers than folded towels. Moreover proteins are the swingers of the biological world. Depending on mood and circumstances , they will allow themselves to be phosphorilated,glycosylated,acetylated, ubiquitinated,farneysylated, sulphated and linked to glycophosphatidylinositol anchors among rather a lot else. Often it takes relatively little to get them going, it appears.

Drink a glass of wine, as Scientific American notes and you materially alter the number and types of proteins at large in your system.

Ethanol is one of the few nutrients that is profoundly toxic. Alcohol causes both whole-body and tissue specific changes in protein metabolism

It took several billion years to evolve this complexity of life,  yet we can throw it into disarray with one glass of wine


With thanks to Bill Bryson’s , “A Short History of Nearly Everything”