There is a psychological tenet that states that the human mind behaves as if it were divided into two parts—the Thinker and the Prover—and “Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves.” If the Thinker thinks that the sun moves around the earth, the Prover will obligingly organize all perceptions to fit that thought; if the Thinker changes its mind and decides the earth moves around the sun, the Prover will reorganize the evidence. And not even “objective” scientists are immune to this way of thinking. Hell, Einstein himself would not accept anything in quantum theory after 1920 no matter how many experiments supported it! Science achieves, or approximates, objectivity not because the individual scientist is immune from the psychological laws that govern the rest of us, but because scientific method—a group creation—eventually overrides individual prejudices, in the long run.
If there is one particular topic that repeatedly falls prey to this subjectively scientific methodology, it’s the issue of eating/drinking/weight loss. It doesn’t much matter what the basis for it is. As long as it’s got the credentials of a few researchers—or better yet, the respect of having been published in some fly-by-night medical journal—the public is generally all ears. Butter was a healthy, natural food…until it wasn’t. At that point, the sacrilege known as margarine became the only sound choice to have in your fridge…until it wasn’t. Then scientists told you how bad trans fats were and that you should probably just go back to butter. Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves.
So it’s little surprise that as the years have come and gone, every Tom, dick and Harry has either warned us that a particular food/drink is unhealthy and fattening, or by opposing lauded that very same food/drink for being the next great weight-loss tool. Alcohol (wine in particular) is probably the most hilarious topic to watch in this good-for-you/bad-for-you tug of war, and I tend to watch that battle from the safety of the sidelines…with a drink in my hand. I recently read that researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who studied the alcohol consumption of more than 19,000 women over 13 years, found that women who drank a “light to moderate amount of alcohol” (no more than two servings a day of wine, beer or liquor) tended to gain less weight than women who didn’t drink. Interestingly enough, despite the fact that the key words in those results were “gain less” they still touted the research as proving that drinking can be a weight-loss tool. I must be doing something wrong, as I’m pretty sure my two daily glasses of wine haven’t done a single fucking thing for my once-svelte waistline.
Apparently, “Women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol tend to eat less food, particularly carbohydrates,” according to cardiologist Lu Wang, lead researcher on the study and an instructor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. I’m not even going to get into the fact that alcohol is for the most part, carbohydrates*—thus the drinker is replacing carbs with carbs—since what I find really tummy tickling is the fact that I can find a dozen other studies that will readily disprove these very conclusions. The contrarian rope yankers will tell you that people who drink alcohol regularly actually eat more because alcohol can stimulate the appetite. It’s the equivalent of having the voice in your right ear tell you that having a drink a day is good for you and helps control unhealthy eating, while the voice in your left ear tells you that a drink a day is nothing but a shitload of empty calories and should be seriously curtailed if you want to lose weight. Meanwhile, a third voice directly behind you is shouting, “Never mind about the wine, dude, lay off the damned Breyers before your ass requires its own zip code.”
It doesn’t much matter what particular food or beverage you hone in on, if your goal is to find its health benefits, rest assured that with enough research dollars you will inevitably find said benefits. If, on the other hand, your goal is to determine why that same exact gastronomic pleasure is the road to doom, you’ll no doubt find enough evidence of that as well. In the end, if it doesn’t serve to either reinforce or validate what we already believe, we will discard it as bullshit media hype…it either proves what we already thought or it’s malarkey. And it’s perhaps the puritanical need to continually dichotomize food and categorize it as either “good” or “bad” that keeps these scientists funded, telling us whatever the benefactors think they want us to hear. I, for one, intend on continuing my daily imbibing until someone can prove that I would be a better person without it—a futile pursuit, I assure you.
*Your average 12 oz beer has 5-14 grams of carbs, and 4 oz of wine averages 2-5 grams of carbs, but 1 oz distilled spirits (gin, vodka, brandy) has 0 grams of carbs. However if you go by route of an aperitif, expect anywhere from 20-30 grams of carbs per serving.