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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Beware the universal quantifiers!

Alcohol isn’t all bad if you know how to set healthy boundaries for your alcohol intake
CATS Classified In The Straits Times - August 13, 2010
By: Wong Wei Chen
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Beware the universal quantifiers!

“Everybody wants to rule the world.”

So sings world-renowned British rock band, Tears for Fears. When I was younger, more impressionable, and less of an irritating sceptic, I was impressed by the song. Indeed, the iconic piece captured the zeitgeist of the Cold War, an era of military, political and economic tension which emerged soon after World War II.

Now that I’m older, and having adopted a dour philosophical outlook generally hostile to airy-fairy stuff, when someone comes along spouting rhetoric involving “everybody”, “everything” and “all”, I say: “Come off it, already”. Art and shabby ideas survive on hyperbole – but too much is simply annoying.

The same goes for diehard opponents, and for that matter, staunch proponents of alcohol. Both camps become masters of hyperbole when they start arguing in categorical terms. So what are in-betweeners like us supposed to do?

Well, I think we’re better off listening to what the medical experts have to say.

Is it really true that alcohol is bad for health?
Most certainly, if you drink to excess. Damaged livers, kidney failure, hypertension, psychological disorders, crippling physical dependency – the ill effects of alcohol are well documented, and I don’t think further elaboration is necessary.

But is alcohol consumption all bad? If my opening paragraphs have made an impression on you, your defence mechanisms should be just about up by now. “All” smacks of demagoguery, so beware.

Alcohol dependence comes about as a result of excessive consumption, so unless you are strongly genetically predisposed to alcohol addiction, you won’t become addicted just because you had a pint of beer last week.

How much is enough then?

On its website, the Health Promotion Board recommends a limit of three standard drinks per day for men, and two standard drinks per day for women. One standard drink is defined as an amount of drink that contains 10 grams of alcohol. That translates into: 220ml of regular beer (roughly equivalent to 2/3 can), 100ml of wine or 30ml of spirits.

In a nutshell, alcohol rears its ugly head when we go to extremes. When taken in moderation, it can actually be a good thing.

What’s good about alcohol?
Alcoholic beverages contain ingredients (such as resveratrol in wine) which help to increase the amount of good cholesterol in our bodies. An article in The Straits Times on May 26 – FAQs About Alcoholism – cited studies done in Italy and the United States which suggested that moderate drinking may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Moderate consumption has also been linked to better sensitivity to insulin and improvements in factors that work against blood clotting. Such changes can prevent the formation of small blood clots which may clog arteries in the heart, neck, and brain, possibly preventing heart attacks and stroke.

So it would seem like we’ve saved booze from the “death sentence”. But is all manner of alcohol consumption good for you? Obviously not. The consequences of heavy drinking far outweigh its benefits, so be careful when someone tells you that drinking is good without any qualification whatsoever.

Use some common sense
To conclude, alcohol – like many other things – is good when imbibed in moderation, but becomes harmful when consumed to excess. Drink too much water too quickly, and you could die from a condition known as hyponatremia or water intoxication. So is water good or bad for you? You tell me!

At the end of the day, I find a panacea in good old common sense. In a society littered with demagogues waiting to prey on the unwary, be especially careful of that shadowy enclave of all-encompassing words, also known in logic as universal quantifiers; words like “everybody”, “everyone”, “everything”, “all” and such.

And no – I don’t want to rule the world. It’s too stressful for a lazy bloke like me.


Healthy bites - Making healthier food choices