A sobering story

It is the tail end of a delightful birthday soiree for eight hosted by our friends/neighbours Chris and Peter and we have retired under the vine-clad pergola for fig-infused ginger pudding with maple syrup and cream.

Scuttlebutt about recent politics and earthquakes had moved on to winespeak – about the best wines we had consumed and on to the typical baby boomer conversation health, well-being and “disease prevention’’.

Among one number is an eastern suburbs GP with a focus on men’s health and another fellow, a singer in a local band,  has not drunk a drop of alcohol all night and he has watched us consume a fine array of Australian red and white wines. This has been an exciting informal wine appreciation course because our host is an associate professor of wine and viticulture, an author and a consultant to the industry. We had begun with a bubbly Bird In Hand sparkling wine (Adelaide Hills), and a crisp O’Leary and Walker Watervale Riesling 2008,  and continued with a Richmond Grove Shiraz 2001. Our own contribution had been a Yering Station Shiraz 2007.

Over dessert, a string of best drunken stories flows which triggers GP Steve to ask what we thought was “enough alcohol consumption at any one time’’.

“If we are talking about disease prevention then we must look at the impact of alcohol on the body,’’ says the quietly-spoken Steve.  

We are alert enough to simply listen.

“It’s not just the brain, it’s the liver and all organs of the body really,’’ he continues. “Most people think the standard consumption without doing harm is two drinks for women and four drinks for men.

“But it’s now two alcoholic drinks for everyone at any one time if we want to prevent disease.’’

The word “alcoholism’’ is not mentioned as such, but Steve adds what we all know in our hearts that it is now recognised that alcohol is the No. 1 drug problem in Australia. One of the saddest statistics is the unfortunate few who become addicted to alcohol.

I  quote from a cover story I had written using figures from the National Health and Medical Research Foundation, the body attempting to change attitudes downward to only a two drink limit.

What had surprised me when I wrote the article, which was geared to exposing the dangers of binge drinking on young people and the brain injury it could cause, was that the largest consumers of alcohol were actually men aged 60-plus.

“That kind of drinking causes any number of diseases,’’ says Steve. “Heart disease, kidney failure, liver disease and the big one, diabetes.’’

My research also shows that heavy drinking over a 10-15 year period damages the brain as surely as pregnant alcoholic mothers give birth to impaired babies.

It becomes a sobering moment.

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1 Comment to “A sobering story”

  1. By Marie Jonsson-Harrison, 17/06/2010 @ 11:33 am

    Dear Nadine,
    What a terrible story that was, take it away immediately! I was so enjoying my life, glass in hand and now I have the guilts! Shouldn’t I get a medal instead for giving up cigarets 19 years ago along with fatty food, sugar and everything else that tastes remotely good, not to mention bad boys, fast cars and loud music! I suppose you will tell us to give up sex next? lol.
    Love Marie xx

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