If James Bond had listened to a little more of Dr. No’s monologuing, perhaps the good doctor would have warned him about his dangerously high alcohol consumption and how difficult it could make Bond’s life as a spy.
A team led by Dr. Graham Johnson with the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust in England recently tallied up Bond’s weekly alcohol consumption as detailed in the series of novels authored by Ian Fleming, which star the MI-6 00 spy. They published their findings in the BMJ this past Thursday.
Those who are fans of the books may already know how frequently Bond downed drinks, but what they might not realize are the effects such heavy drinking would have on 007, were he an actual man.
According to Peter Martin, a psychiatrist at the Vanderbilt Addiction Center, Bond’s liver would definitely be damaged by his amount of alcohol consumption, likely causing liver cirrhosis as well as cognitive defects. It could also cause depression in addition to sexual dysfunction, something that that has yet to be seen as an issue for 007.
Other internal damage from alcohol could be caused to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that deals with dexterity and athleticism, and the hippocampus, which assists in the creation of memory. As a heavy drinker, Bond would have trouble carrying out the fighting moves needed to take down whatever bad guy interrupts his martini, and his recall wouldn’t be the nearly perfect memorization that allows him to keep track of cards to win at poker or to remember the passcode to the latest evil mastermind’s secret lair.
In addition to the internal side effects, the article states that the layman would be unable to perform other feats Bond accomplishes almost every day, from shooting straight to something as simple as holding that martini glass steady for another sip. In fact, despite Bond’s spy-related duties, it is almost more likely he would die in a drunken driving accident before succumbing to a bullet.
So how much did Bond actually drink? The graph created by the medical researchers indicates that at his novel debut, 007 drank nearly 130 units of alcohol a week. That number tapers off along the midpoint of Bond’s spy career, but begins to rise again in the 1960s, with 1964 alcohol levels once again matching his 1953 start. Over this twelve-year span, Bond averaged 92 units, or about 45 drinks, per week. For an adult male, this amount of weekly alcohol more than quadruples the suggested maximum amount.
Bond wasn’t alone in his drinking habit. People in the ’50s did tend to drink a lot more than today, and author Ian Fleming himself was a heavy drinker, dying at the relatively young age of 56 from heart disease. The article authors believe that, putting aside the dangers of the spy lifestyle, James Bond would have a comparable life expectancy. It would be a great irony, given the dangerous situations Bond frequently rams himself into, for the one thing that finally does him to in be those shaken-not-stirred vodka martinis.
By Marisa Corley