Alcoholic Beverages

It would hardly fall within the scope of a work on the rational modes of feeding and nourishment to enter fully into a discussion of alcoholic drinks. We have deemed it preferable to give more attention to vegetables and fruits. If we do here refer briefly to alcoholic drinks, it is merely because there are many people who do not consider it an irrational proceeding to indulge in a glass of beer or wine after the day’s work, or to add zest to their meal, or, again, simply because they enjoy it. Even if many do take pleasure in a good glass of wine or beer, I do not see why such a custom should be condemned, since we are not really born into this vale of tears to be martyrs. From the standpoint of hygiene, it cannot be affirmed that the taking of a glass of beer or wine, or possibly even two or three glasses of beer and a couple o,f small glasses of some light wine each day, will cause any great damage. The labors of a number of investigators (Atwater and Benedict, Rosemann, and others) have shown that alcohol has certain nourishing properties. It is also stimulating, and there are many persons who in the intervals of their arduous labors are spurred on to a continuation of their work by a glass of beer or wine. Alcohol is only injurious, for the majority of persons, when taken in large quantities; we have treated this subject in detail in our book, “Old Age Deferred.” To forbid the enjoyment of a glass of beer to a hard-working and temperate person be-cause there are others who cannot drink without becoming intoxicated appears to me to be unjust, and is at all events an interference with personal liberty. Such absolute prohibition, in general, only leads to unbridled indulgence; I noticed, in the case of patients who may have been in the habit of taking 10 to 12 glasses of beer, that, when I allowed them to take one glass of Pilsner beer, which is principally used here, at each meal, they adhered strictly to this amount, but when it was absolutely forbidden they usually drank more. In the case of beer it should be remembered that it is not only an agreeable drink, but is also somewhat nourishing. In addition to its alcohol content—which is happily not at all large—beer also contains sugar and dextrin ; in the dark beers there is quite an appreciable quantity. The least injurious beer, from the hygienic standpoint, is that which does not contain much alcohol. The beer which is drunk in this country (Austria) contains only from 3 to 4 per cent. of alcohol; in export beers more alcohol is added to make them keep better; they are consequently rather more injurious. Nevertheless, the beer ex-ported from Austria and Germany does not contain over 6 per cent. of alcohol.

This added amount of alcohol affects the taste of beer, and in Bavaria the beer tastes very much better than it does in distant places in Germany. Since English beers and porter, ale, and stout contain as much as 8 per cent. of alcohol, an Austrian white wine or a Rhine wine is undoubtedly a more healthful drink. Among the beers which contain the smallest amount of alcohol are lager beer and certain varieties drunk in Belgium, such as faro and brun. It is no doubt not an unwarranted assertion to say that a small quantity of beer taken daily will not harm anyone, but that, on the contrary, it may even prove beneficial. It increases the appetite, for instance, and favors the action of the bowels. In many persons a little beer helps the appetite and has an enlivening effect ; with others, such as nervous people, it causes them to sleep better.

It is certain, however, that beer is injurious when taken in large quantities not only because of its alcohol content, but also because of the mechanical influence of large quantities of fluid upon the heart, blood-vessels, and kidneys. Such excess-ive beer drinking may give rise to very serious results, and it is certain that the development of arteriosclerosis may be caused by it. Excessive and sometimes even moderate beer drinking is detrimental in gout, since, according to Haig and Walker Hall, beer—particularly the dark varieties—contains substances which promote the formation of uric acid. In cases of gravel and stone in the bladder it is likewise injurious. Dark beer, in particular, is harmful in diabetes; in fact, it is better for these patients not to take any beer, and the same is true in the case of obesity.

Wine is even less than beer to be considered a nourishing substance; it is strictly as an enjoyable drink that wine is taken. As with beer, it can be stated that a small quantity—say, one or two small glasses of a slightly acid Austrian or Rhine or Mosel wine, and possibly on holidays even an additional glass —taken with the midday meal is not likely to prove injurious; the wine taken should not contain more than 8 per cent, of alcohol. The same quantity of a genuine Hungarian wine, such as the Ofner and Erlauer varieties, or of the French Bordeaux or Austrian Tyrolese wines may be taken, when they do not contain more than 8 per cent. of alcohol. The Pfalz and certain varieties of Mosel wines, which contain 11 to 12 per cent. of alcohol, are more dangerous, as is also Burgundy; a variety of the latter, and also an excellent Bordeaux w;ne, are made in Belgium.

In the matter of wine the two constituent nations of Belgium are also divided. The Flemish have carried on the worship of Bordeaux wine from the time of their ancestors; they keep it for years in their cellars; and although, according to historical traditions, many illustrious princes of Burgundy having resided in Bruges, it would seem that Burgundy should be preferred by the Flemish, it is really the Walloons, in the neighborhood of Charleroi and Mons, who are able to age the Burgundy wine as it is done nowhere else; so that even the French travel across the frontier to drink a good Burgundy—in Belgium. Such a Burgundy, however, which tickles the palate with its delicious aroma, is not good for the health, and when a man is gouty and has the means permitting of a choice between Bordeaux and Burgundy, but has not the will power to deprive himself of both—which would be the proper thing to do—Bordeaux is the one to be selected. I forbid both when I am treating gouty patients. In fact, no wine is indicated in gout except perhaps a very moderate amount of a light white wine, although some authors do not positively object to red wine. Wine should also be avoided in arteriosclerosis, as well as in renal and vesical calculi, and especially in cirrhosis of the liver; in fact, alcohol should be avoided in all diseases of the liver. In the majority of nervous diseases wine is not advisable, even when taken in moderate quantities. We cannot deny, however, that good, genuine wine of the lighter varieties has its advantages when used in small quantities. In many persons it has an enlivening and cheering effect, the appetite is stimulated, and in some the desire to work is increased. In diarrhea the tannin content may have a favorable effect, and Neubauer and others have obtained good results in severe cases of diabetes.

I find less excuse for the use of fruit wines when they, like those made from berries, contain 10 to II per cent. of alcohol, since in their manufacture sugar is also added, which, by its fermentation, further increases the alcohol content. When one cannot do without taking alcohol in the form of wine, such artificial products should at least not be used; they are more injurious than ordinary light wines. I must also decry these chemical products because of their treacherous and deceiving effects; a person taking strawberry wine will be more easily intoxicated than with the fermented juice of the vine, i.e., regular wine. Among the substitutes apple wine might be best recommended, since it probably does not contain more alcohol than beer,—about 4% to 5 per cent. Fruit wines were probably not meant in the verse of the Holy Scriptures in which it says that “Wine maketh glad the heart of man.”

When the alcohol content, as in southern wines such as Malaga, and even more so in port-wine (16 to 17 per cent.), is pretty high,—the Tokay wine contains 11 to 12 per cent.,—the dangers of wine may be even greater. Fortunately, the rather high price of these wines prevents their being used to any great extent. As far as their value is concerned, they are rather to be regarded as remedial agents than for simple enjoyment. Taken in small quantities they have a tonic action. A small glass of Tokay, Malaga, or Madeira may be useful for weak or delicate persons, those debilitated by disease, anemic persons, or convalescents after exhausting diseases. In this respect the much more alcoholic cognacs and whisky (40 to 50 per cent. alcohol) are also beneficial. Their only rôle is as remedial agents, and they should be considered as tonics. Other poisonous substances besides alcohol act as remedies in small doses, but when more of them are taken, become poisons. To be sure, there are persons—especially in England and America—who have grown very old while taking such poisons ; in my work on “Old Age Deferred” I cited the case of an old lady who, having taken a tablespoonful of whisky every day, lived to be over 100 years old. It is certain, how-ever, that such cases are exceptions, since the devotees of alcohol, especially in the form of alcoholic drinks, go to pieces both bodily and mentally at an early age. We have shown in the above-mentioned work the terrible results due to the use of this scourge of mankind. We shall now close this chapter, as the limited space available in this work must be devoted to more useful subjects than that of alcoholic beverages.