Europe, Bond, medicine, alcoholism

Did Bond really have a license to die a slow, agonizing death?

High time for rehab?

McClatchy Foreign StaffDecember 19, 2013 


Cast members Daniel Craig and Olga Kurylenko pose at a photocall to promote the James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace" on October 14, 2008.

DAVID SICA — Stella Pictures/Abaca Press/MCT

— The portrait of the subject being studied in the British Medical Journal is not a pretty one. His weekly alcohol consumption is more than four times over the limit of what is deemed safe. The doctors conducting the research note the subject’s “level of alcohol intake puts him at high risk of multiple alcohol related diseases and an early death.”

So just who is this boozy subject? Bond. James Bond.

And the doctors know his was not a healthy lifestyle.

In a “study” published this month in the prestigious medical journal, three doctors examined the fictional spy and definition of suave by reading and taking notes on the alcohol being consumed in the Bond novels of Ian Fleming. The study, for anyone’s eyes, really, was conducted from “comfy chairs” in their own studies. They note that no funding was sought for their study, as they already owned the books.

In taking notes, doctors Graham Johnson (emergency medicine), Indra Neil Guha, (clinical associate professor of hepatology) and Patrick Davies, (paediatric intensive care consultant), determined that Bond’s “level of functioning as displayed in the books is inconsistent with the physical, mental, and indeed sexual functioning expected from someone drinking this much alcohol.”

While it might have crushed the dreams of femme fatales galore, he was likely impotent.

In fact, they suggest “an immediate referral for further assessment and treatment, a reduction in alcohol consumption to safe levels.” The authors add that it seems likely “the famous catchphrase ‘shaken, not stirred’ could be because of alcohol induced tremor affecting his hands.”

The study of the book was based on the notion that when Fleming wrote that Bond was consuming vodka, he was actually drinking vodka, and not trying to fake it. They note in a table accompanying the paper that they used the level of one finger of vodka (a regular finger, though a gold one would work) as “one unit” of alcohol. Using this measurement, a single martini contains three units of alcohol and a bottle of wine nine and a tumbler of spirits (wait, really? Bond drank full tumblers?) represents 12 units.

The data (and we assume books were used instead of movies because they give a more complete picture of a fictional life): “Across 12 of the 14 books, 123.5 days were described, though Bond was unable to consume alcohol for 36 days because of external pressures (admission to hospital, incarceration, rehabilitation). During this time he was documented as consuming 1150.15 units of alcohol.”

Nobody, it can be guessed, did it better.

So the, the study notes, if the days he was unable to drink are subtracted, he was drinking the equivalent of just about 31 martinis a week. Include those out of drinking action days into the average though and the weekly consumption falls to about 22 martinis a week.

Those are averages though. As the doctors note: “His maximum daily consumption was 49.8 units (From Russia with Love day 3).”

Just for perspective, that would be four tumblers of vodka or brandy or at least some spirit, plus a couple slurps from a martini.

The study, however, notes: “He had 12.5 alcohol free days out of the 87.5 days on which he was able to drink.”

The authors also note that, for instance, in times when Fleming didn’t outline sip for sip how much was being consumed, they went with “conservative” estimates, and therefore believe they were more likely to underestimate Bond’s consumption that overestimate it.

And, they point out that “Author and ex-Naval intelligence operative Ian Lancaster Fleming died at a relatively young age from a myocardial infarction and enjoyed smoking and drinking to excess. It has been postulated that the habits of his literary character, James Bond, had habits similar to his own.”

Sadly, they add, that would have made Bond’s “license to kill” a bit of a danger to society. His drinking would have rendered the notion that he was the “best shot in the Secret Service” to be “pure fantasy.”

And that assertion gets the authors to the actual point of the study, beyond the humor.

As the authors note: “Excess alcohol consumption is a societal and health problem throughout the world. Around 4 percent of deaths worldwide are related to alcohol, with 2.5 million deaths a year attributable to its use. Death is most commonly caused by injury, liver cirrhosis, poisoning, and malignancy. In the entertainment world, however, excess alcohol consumption is often portrayed in a positive, even glamorous, light.”

But, hey, nobody lives forever.


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