All that booze would give James Bond a tremor

"The 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," write the researchers. (Credit: "iStockphoto)

James Bond throws back over four times the recommended weekly amount of alcohol, say researchers who tracked every drink in Ian Fleming’s 14 novels.

Bond’s weekly alcohol intake puts him at high risk of several alcohol-related diseases, such as alcoholic liver disease, cirrhosis, impotence, alcohol-induced tremor, and an early death.


“Whilst a light-hearted analysis of a fictional character, the study has some serious public health messages,” says study co-author Neil Guha, a hepatologist at the University of Nottingham.

“Deaths from chronic liver disease in the UK have doubled in the last 20 years and the average age of death is 59; this is in contrast to death rates in other parts of Western Europe. Whilst significant liver-scarring can occur in the absence of symptoms, early detection can lead to reversal of liver damage.”

The research, led by Graham Johnson of Royal Derby Hospital and Patrick Davies of Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, appears in BMJ.

They conclude that James Bond is unlikely to be able to stir his drinks, even if he would have wanted to, and suspect that the spy’s famous catchphrase “shaken, not stirred” may well be due to alcohol induced tremor affecting his hands.

Reading and counting

Excess alcohol consumption is a global health problem with 2.5 million deaths every year attributable to its use. The entertainment world, however, often portrays it in a positive, even glamorous, light.

While reading the original James Bond books, Patrick Davies and colleagues were struck that his alcohol consumption seemed rather high, and they wondered whether he would realistically have the capacity to perform (in all aspects of life) at his high level of alcohol intake. So they decided to measure Bond’s alcohol consumption, as detailed in the novels by Ian Fleming, and its potential health effects.

Having read all 14 James Bond books over a period of six months, they took notes detailing every alcoholic drink taken, and used pre-defined alcohol unit levels to calculate consumption. Where there was no specific mention of which drinks Bond consumed, the authors made conservative estimates. They also noted days when James Bond was unable to drink, such as while incarcerated.

Daily drinking

Excluding days when Bond was unable to drink, his average alcohol consumption was 92 units per week, over four times the recommended amount. Maximal daily consumption was 49.8 units and he had 12.5 alcohol free days out of the 87.5 days he was able to drink. Bond also frequently drank enough to put him over the legal limit before he stepped into his car.

Many studies have shown that people generally underestimate their alcohol consumption by around 30 percent, say the authors, implying that Bond’s alcohol consumption may be as high as 130 units per week.

“The 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,” they write.

“We advise an immediate referral for further assessment and treatment, a reduction in alcohol consumption to safe levels, and suspect that the famous catchphrase ‘shaken, not stirred’ could be because of alcohol induced tremor affecting his hands,” they conclude.

Source: University of Nottingham