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What James Bond May Have Known About Antioxidants


WebMD Health News

Dec. 16, 1999 (Atlanta) -- The secret to James Bond's longevity may have been unveiled, and it could have something to do with what's in his shaken martinis. What is this secret agent? It goes by the name oxidant -- antioxidant.

Antioxidant compounds defuse agents in the body called free radicals that do damage to cell membranes, perhaps leading to heart disease, strokes or cancer. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Western Ontario say James Bond's favorite drink, a shaken martini, is superior in its antioxidant content to a martini that is stirred.

The study, published in this week's issue of the British Medical Journal, compared seven shaken martinis to six stirred martinis. They were all made up of two parts gin to one part vermouth: no olives, no onions, no vodka.

They were put through a battery of tests, says researcher John Trevithick, PhD, where the martinis were "challenged" with hydrogen peroxide, a chemical that leads to the production of free radicals. Shaken martinis were shown to have greater antioxidant amounts by neutralizing twice as much hydrogen peroxide as the stirred martinis.

The researchers don't know why the shaken martinis were superior. They tried different experiments, and came up empty. "In fact it turns out, surprisingly, that the mixture is better than either gin or vermouth by itself, and we don't know quite why that is," Trevithick tells WebMD.

The researchers tried bubbling air into the martinis to see if aspiration was what caused the shaken martinis to be superior. That didn't solve the puzzle either.

The final conclusion, according to the researchers: "007's profound state of health may be due, at least in part, to compliant bartenders."

Trevithick explained the genesis of the research. He says he was already doing research on antioxidant activity in alcohol. His daughter, who was the lead author of this study and a James Bond fan, suggested they experiment with the secret agent's favorite drink. They were surprised by the results, and still want an explanation.

"We think we should go on and look at human studies where we do volunteers and look at how much is absorbed and all this kind of thing, so eventually we hope to be able to do that," Trevithick tells WebMD.

Gary Woodworth, MD, a cardiologist who looked at the study for WebMD, said it was a "crack-up". But he commended the science in it. "I think it's a fun article that shows some scientific basis ... but does it have medical pertinence? I don't think so, I think it's just interesting. I think it's even funny," he tells WebMD. He says it's not even known for sure whether oral antioxidants reduce heart disease.

"And we certainly don't advocate people going out and getting their fill of martinis to get the antioxidant benefit, but if they happen to take a martini maybe they ought to shake it rather than stir it," Woodworth says.

Trevithick and colleagues also commend "moderate consumption." As for future studies, "preliminary" human trials may be toyed with soon. "We're having a get-together with some of the students at my house next Tuesday," Trevithick tells WebMD. "We'll see."

The study was supported by grants from Labatt Breweries, and many of the staff on the project were summer students supported by Work Study, Canada Manpower, and Youth Opportunities Unlimited Ontario.

 

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