“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





07 April 2009



Very Bad Things Happen In Mouths
And Other Bits Further Down
Shock Reports Prove Life Leads To Death!
by PHILIP WHITE - a version of this yarn appeared in The Independent Weekly on 03 APR 09

Now that Prof Michael McCulloch, chair of the Australian Dental Association's therapeutics committee and associate professor of oral medicine at Melbourne University, reckons that the alcohol in mouthwashes "increases the permeability of the mucosa" to carcinogens like nicotine, I made a quick decision.

No more mouthwash.

And to think I gargled only to correct the evidence of the sins of smoke and drink.

Turns out acetaldehyde might be the culprit. "We see people with oral cancer who have no other risk factors than the use of alcohol-containing mouthwash, so what we've done in this study is review all the evidence that's out there” Prof McCullogh said.

"We believe there should be warnings. If it was a facial cream that had the effect of reducing acne but had a four-to-five-fold increased risk of skin cancer, no one would be recommending it."

The Dental Journal of Australia reported that many favourite mouthwashes have more alcohol than wine or beer. Really. Swilling the stuff around the mouth with deliberation seems to be the problem. Which is what professional tasters of alcohol do all the time.

"If you have a glass of wine, you tend to swallow it”, McCullogh continued. “With mouthwash you have a higher level of alcohol and spend longer swishing it around your mouth. The alcohol present in your mouth is turned into acetaldehyde."

Thing is, the mucous in our mouths is a prophylactic, and rinsing it away with strong drink is dumb. Oral cancer mutilates badly and kills half of those affected within five years of diagnosis.

So, surprisingly, what you should do with your drinks – especially strong drinks – is swallow them.

But when I get on the cobweb to check these sorts of things out, whatter I get?

I get the sort of codswallop I reported in last week’s Independent Weekly. As follows:

Jeez. It’s starting to sound like too much booze is bad for you. Scientists spend billions trying to prove this. Others strive to prove the opposite. If the blogosphere’s to be believed, last week’s posts show the wowsers are winning by a pint, but the damn cobweb’s jammed with contradictory shite.

A Kaiser Permanente study revealed polite tipplers – one glass a day - are fifty-six percent less likely to develop Barrett's Oesophagus, where acid reflux removes the protective mucous, leading to cancer. But exactly how wine might achieve this beneficial effect is unclear, Dr. Al Kubo reported in Gastroenterology.

Wine will give you migraine. Oh Really. So can cheese, chocolate, oranges and preservatives. But like the tea and coffee business, the cocoa lobby’s fighting back at those who promote wine’s healthy offerings, suddenly claiming cocoa’s a “superfood”, like the voodoo healers spirulina, goji berries, and acai berries. One lab claims cocoa has 200% of the antioxidant content of red wine, three times the antioxidants of green tea, and reduces the effects of cancer, diabetes and heart disease, by lowering both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Tumbler of chocmint liqueuer, anybody?

Wine will give you depression. Yep. Another genius claims that too much wine makes you fat - something to do with its “empty” calories - while the University of Porto claims that animals given red wine put on less weight than others who did the same amount of exercise over an eight-week period. Something to do with red wine reducing fat storage by hiking oestrogen.

Tufts University studied thousands of people between the ages of 29 and 86 to report that those who chug-a-lug just a glass or two a day, especially in post menopausal women, had better bone density than teetotallers. Blokes who have more that two a day have lower bone density, but women didn’t have the same response. They too think it’s because some drinking habits boost oestrogen.

A British study claims that a small glass of wine, liquor or beer a day increases the risk of breast, rectum, liver, mouth and throat cancer in women by 6 percent by the time they’re 75. Two drinks a day and you double it. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle reckons lasses with a propensity to schlück more than fourteen alcoholic drinks per week are 24 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. Another study suggests alcohol-related breast cancer was stronger among women who had used postmenopausal hormones.

Somebody else says it’s red wine that increases the incidence of breast cancer; but because of the good stuff in grape skins, to which red wine has more prolonged contact, the antioxidant component in reds keeps you alive. Similarly, the bitterness of hops in beer can be of benefit.

But new research at one Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and other reports from Germany suggest the acetaldehydes in alcohol are a cancer trigger. This might be why most people are revulsed by the stuff if it’s in wine. You get rid of it with sulphur dioxide, to which some are allergic. Good argument for responsible, clean winemaking, thinks me. Other boffins claim one third of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean drinkers get facial flushing, nausea, and an increased heart rate from small amounts of alcohol, mainly because of an inherited lack of aldehyde dehydrogenase 2.

The Queensland Institute of Medical Research and L'Oréal Recherche, Paris, jointly claim that modest amounts of oily fish and wine may decrease the occurence of actinic keratoses, premalignant actinic tumors of the skin, and work like an internal sun block.

Southampton University claims that long-term daily drinkers are at greater risk of developing serious liver disease than weekly binge drinkers. Researchers in Scotland say heavy-drinking pregnant Scots will hike the number of babies with foetal alcohol syndrome, which promises a life of mental retardation, behavioural issues, heart and brain damage, and the elfin facial defect.

The American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society say two drinks a day for men and one a day for women is good, but claim that if you’re not a drinker, you shouldn’t start, because the risks outweigh the benefits. Another report says it’s better to eat red grapes or drink grape juice. The University of Western Australia says that women who daily consume a small button mushroom cut their chance of breast cancer by two thirds!

“Stick to water and stay away from alcohol like whiskey, beer, wine and coffee” says another expert, obviously not from Adelaide. “They tend to stick to your teeth and cause plague.” Plague eh. I thought you got that from rats.

So I’ll leave that with you while I fatten myself up on slimming biscuits and Vegemite, to heal this hangover I got from far too much organic wine.

And then I’ll clean my perfidious miasma with a good long gruggle of Listerine.

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