You are what you eat & drink

Posts tagged “alcohol

Palpitations, hypertension, vomiting, convulsions and heart failure

Energy drinks could cause public health problems, says WHO study

Researchers argue for cap on caffeine levels, citing health risks, particularly when the drinks are consumed with alcohol

A European study found that over 70% of 18- 29-year olds drink energy drinks like Red Bull with alcohol. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

Energy drinks will become a significant public health problem if their use among young people is not addressed through a cap on caffeine levels and restrictions on their sale and marketing, United Nations researchers have warned.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) study said the primary risk was from high caffeine levels, which can cause problems such as palpitations, hypertension, vomiting, convulsions and in extreme cases heart failure leading to death. The paper, published in Frontiers in Public Health on Tuesday, will add to concerns about the harmful effects of excessive energy-drink consumption.

João Breda, from WHO’s Regional Office for Europe, and colleaguesThe researchers wrote that caffeine has a proven negative effect on children.

They said: “The full impact of the rise in popularity of energy drinks has not yet been quantified, but the aggressive marketing of energy drinks targeted at young people, combined with limited and varied regulation have created an environment where energy drinks could pose a significant threat to public health.”

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Satireday on Fizz

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The Bingers

Stay sober? No thanks – I’m British

There’s understandable panic over binge-drinking culture, but our history, weather and the effects of British reserve mean we’ll probably carry on regardless

‘No law is a match for the centuries-old need for a few hours of joyful, rebellious oblivion.’ Photograph: Alamy

Mine is shaping up to be a varied and illustrious binge-drinking career. From the first time I got drunk, at 14 – having boldly decided that a two-litre bottle of White Lightning cider was the best way to get over a breakup (and land me in hospital) – to guzzling beer through a funnel while at university, to present-day bouts of getting hammered in the kitchen, it’s been a bumpy, sick-making ride. And, despite the fact my hangovers have begun to transmogrify from tolerable annoyances into day-long periods of apocalyptic torture, I’m still doing it. Like many others, I ignore the health risks and the horror stories, because, in all honesty, I love drinking.

It hardly needs stating that the UK and Ireland have a binge-drinking problem with the potential for fatal consequences. A 19-year-old, Jonny Byrne, died on Saturday, after downing a pint and jumping into a river as part of a game called NekNomination. The game, from what I can gather, is imported from Australia, another country that struggles with moderation (this week a young woman there inexplicably swallowed a goldfish while playing the same game). And police suspect that Megan Roberts, a teenager who went missing in York in late January, may have fallen into the river Ouse after a night of drinking.

Understandably, tragic stories such as these tend to provoke moral panic. While ministers have dropped minimum alcohol pricing proposals, the Home Office is still intending to use existing licensing regulations in order to prevent supermarkets selling alcohol at below cost. Not only are these measures likely to have an impact only on a mere 1.3% of sales, they also ignore several underlying factors. Alcohol is dirt cheap elsewhere in Europe, but in countries such as France and Italy – where alcohol is consumed regularly but in a leisurely, aperitif fashion, often while smoking and looking out on to a piazza – there is no “binge-drinking epidemic”. France (a nation that, according to World Health Organisation statistics, actually drinks more than us) points and laughs at le binge drinking across the Channel. We have an issue with so-called drinking urgency that extending pub opening times hasn’t tackled.

I have a theory about Britain’s bingeing but it is, admittedly, one that I came up with in the pub. I’ve come to believe that our small island has a unique combination of factors that results in our seemingly indefatigable urge to get wasted. It has roots in our class system, which has seen the rich stockpile wealth and the poor go from the medieval alehouses that flourished in the wake of the Black Death to Wetherspoons, via Hogarth’s Beer Street and Gin Lane.

The industrial revolution gave birth to the modern pattern of alternating monotonous, silent work with noisy, drunken piss-ups. Now we work more hours than any other country in Europe. By contrast, many French people still take two hours at lunch.

It’s the crappy weather, too, the atavistic lure of a roaring fire and the warmth of the pub on dark winter afternoons. Historically pubs gave the overcrowded, urban poor a surrogate home away from the slums, which is perhaps why so many of them still feel like someone’s living room. We’re losing some of that now, but the need for a short, sharp burst of comfort remains, and can be seen echoed in modern, competitive drinking games.

It’s also, I think, a nationwide lack of confidence, an emotional reserve. This is a cliche, but one that’s undeniable in the face of all those boozed-up first kisses and late-night street rows between red-faced people rattling with repressed anger, like pressure cookers. Combine that with the lure of the taboo created by a society that tells parents not to let their children see them drink, and you end up with a country of bloated drunkards (myself included) whose habits are impossible to legislate away.

No law is a match for the centuries-old need for a few hours of joyful, rebellious oblivion. How a government could ever go about sobering us up effectively is anyone’s guess, but I do know one thing: we’ll drink whatever the cost.

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Cakes and ale

Yotam Ottolenghi’s irresistible alcohol-soaked puds

A proper boozy soak is an assured way of introducing an incredible depth of flavour without any hassle

Yotam Ottolenghi’s stewed blackberries with bay custard and gin recipe: ‘I smother late summer puddings with alcohol.’ Photograph: Colin Campbell for the Guardian

For me, the end of childhood came when the number of candles on my birthday cake no longer reflected my age, around 19 or 20. From then on, each candle came to represent an entire decade. And then there comes a point where you ditch the candles entirely in favour of an ingredient that allows you to simply set the whole cake on fire: booze. It’s a brilliant short cut. No need to purchase, count out and arrange all those candles: just sprinkle on some Grand Marnier or brandy, strike a match and let the festivities begin.

It’s also a short cut when it comes to flavour. A proper boozy soak introduces an incredible depth of flavour. It has the same effect as a good stock or grated parmesan: you benefit from the slow maturation and intensified aromas without having to work very hard or wait particularly long.

When it comes to late summer puddings, I smother my desserts with alcohol. As well as giving a dish a sense of occasion, the sweetness offsets the tartness of the fruits it is often paired with: cooking apples with calvados; spiced pears in red wine or port; chocolate, cherry and Cointreau trifle.

Booze is also great when it comes to turning childhood favourites into respectably mature classics. What is zabaglione if not custard with an edge? Or strawberries romanoff if you don’t lift it with a good measure of orange liqueur? Tiramisu, crepe suzette, trifle – the list goes on.

Of course, there is a case for more family-friendly and alcohol-free banoffee pie and tiramisu; an orange flower water syrup is a lovely alternative to the Grand Marnier in crepes suzettes, and a bit of espresso coffee can replace the marsala wine in a zabaglione. But, just sometimes, it’s the big kids who should be allowed to have their cake and eat it.

Stewed blackberries with bay custard and gin

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Olive oil cake with grilled grapes and sauternes sauce

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Baked chocolate truffle with pernod figs

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Why Beer Makes you Smarter

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