This morning I awoke full of the joys of the New Year. I had resolved how the next few days would be spent.
I am particularly looking forward to a couple of nights away with the long-suffering wife, Margaret. In a particularly sensitive moment, Nero the dog has gifted us a stay at a very posh hotel in the Cotswolds.
Walks in the countryside, lounging in the spa, delicious food and fine wine with the love of my life. What could be better?
Then the Chief Medical Officer (Dame Sally Davies) came on TV to tell me how dangerous drinking was. “Drinking any level of alcohol regularly carries a health risk for anyone…”
Fortunately, I have recently read “Doctoring Data” by Dr Malcolm Kendrick. If you read only one book this year, read that one. Actually, read two, because I’m going to release a novel too.
Dr Kendrick very mildly points out that we might want to be a little bit careful about guidance and advice issued by people like the Chief Medical Officer.
Equipped with the mental tool kit that Dr Kendrick has equipped me with, I was able to note a few things that I might ordinarily have missed from the brief item on the morning news.
In my head the conversation went a bit like this
“Have the new findings and recommendations come from a thorough and rigorous test that has recently finished?”
“Um. No actually. Broadly speaking, we have read a lots of the studies that have already been done and reported on and sort of put them all together.”
“I see. So every single study?”
“Well No. Not all of them. Some were a bit dodgy.”
“Let me guess. The dodgy ones were the ones that suggested that a few glasses of wine with dinner and friends was actually good for your long term health?”
“Spot on. You are clearly a very perceptive man. Outrageous that a study should suggest something like that isn’t it?”
In a nutshell, there is absolutely no new evidence.
Let me repeat that.
ABSOLUTELY NO NEW EVIDENCE.
Some very well meaning folk (all of whom have spent their entire careers telling us that drinking is BAD) have ‘proved’ that drinking any alcohol increases your risk of cancer, and they have proved it by reading a lot of studies already done.
Dr Kendrick explains it a lot better than I do. Read his book.
I don’t want to rant, nor do I want to suggest that lots of heavy drinking is good for you. I’m pretty certain that It isn’t.
I will leave you with this little nugget that appears at the end of the BBC News website coverage of the story.
“Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter, an expert in understanding risk from the University of Cambridge, said it was important to put the 1% risk in context. He said an hour of TV watching or a bacon sandwich a couple of time a week was more dangerous.”
I was going to have a bacon sandwich for breakfast, but for the sake of my health, I’m going to turn the TV off and have a glass of wine.