Medical Matters: Bond may have had no choice in his martinis being shaken, not stirred


James Bond films are a staple of Christmas television. I thought I had seen them all until my son tuned in to Quantum of Solace over the festive period.

It’s relatively brutal by the genre’s standards; certainly Roger Moore would have struggled to portray Daniel Craig’s modern Bond.

There seemed to be less shaken Martinis than I recall from earlier films. Which may be just as well following research published in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal.

This annual double issue is where the learned journal allows itself a certain latitude by encouraging researchers to submit some offbeat studies. Forget large sample sizes and peer review: to get published in this edition requires chutzpah, originality and more than a modicum of zaniness.

Hence the following title in the latest iteration of the Christmas BMJ: “Were James Bond’s drinks shaken because of alcohol-induced tremor?”

Alcohol consumption noted
Hospital consultants from Derby and Nottingham read all 14 original James Bond books, either on paper or on a Kindle device, between January and July 2013. They kept contemporaneous notes of all alcohol consumption, as documented in the books.

And just to prove they hadn’t entirely left their research principles to one side, they told readers, “we excluded The Spy Who Loved Me from analysis as it is written in the first person by a waitress involved with the criminal underworld, and Bond appears for only eight hours as a peripheral figure. The 14th book, Octopussy and the Living Daylights, is a compendium of short stories and was also excluded as it is not one coherent detailed story.”

Analysing the remaining 12 books, they note that author Ian Fleming described some 123.5 days in Bond’s life. However, the spy was unable to consume alcohol for 36 days because of external pressures such as admission to hospital or incarceration by his arch enemies.

During this time he consumed 1,150 units of alcohol. Taking into account days when he was unable to drink, his average alcohol consumption was 92 units a week (1,150 units over 87.5 days). Inclusion of the days Bond was incarcerated brings his consumption down to 65.2 units a week.

His maximum daily consumption was just under 50 units, which occurred on day three of From Russia with Love. He had 12.5 alcohol-free days out of the 87.5 days on which he was able to drink.

Furthermore, when the hospital consultants plotted Bond’s alcohol consumption over time, his intake dropped in the middle of his career but gradually increased towards the end.

Lifetime drinking pattern
“This consistent but variable lifetime drinking pattern has been reported in patients with alcoholic liver disease,” they observe.

When doctors screen patients for alcohol dependency, a commonly used tool is the “CAGE” questionnaire; two yes responses usually prompt further investigation:
nHave you ever felt you needed to Cut down on your drinking?

nHave people Annoyed you by criticising your drinking?

nHave you ever felt Guilty about drinking?

nHave you ever felt you needed a drink first thing in the morning (Eye opener) to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?

The authors score Bond as three out of four on the CAGE questionnaire. They note that in Thunderball he recognises his high alcohol intake and that he feels better when drinking less. He also admits to having an eye opener (“Prairie Oyster”) on some mornings. In The Living Daylights, he becomes annoyed when challenged about his drinking by his boss M.

“It is likely that an international spy and assassin cannot spend too much time worrying about remorse, so we are not surprised that there are no documented instances of alcohol- associated guilt,” they assert.

Bond afficionados must now face the painful conclusion the top MI6 operative probably had alcohol- induced tremor; stirring his martinis was never an option. Bond’s personal tremor ensured his drink was always shaken to taste.

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