It's no wonder James Bond prefers his martinis "shaken, not stirred." The man has such a severe drinking problem that he probably suffers from hand tremors that make stirring a cocktail — if not shooting a gun — impossible, say doctors who studied the fictional spy's drinking habits.
Bond also is at high risk for sexual dysfunction, liver damage, car crashes, stroke and early death, according to findings published Thursday in an annual compendium of quirky medical studies in the British journal BMJ.
The study was done largely in fun, researchers say, but it comes with a serious message: Heavy drinking and a high-functioning life of international espionage, womanizing and stunt driving don't mix.
The authors found that Bond, as depicted in 14 classic Ian Fleming novels, drinks more than four times the limit recommended for British men.
"There are people capable of drinking this amount," says co-author Patrick Davies, a physician at Nottingham University Hospitals. "But they are not capable of drinking that amount and still being able to defuse a nuclear bomb."
How much are we talking? In the United Kingdom, alcohol consumption is measured in units, with one unit equaling 8 grams of pure alcohol. No more than 21 units a week are recommended for men. Many alcoholic drinks contain multiple units, and Bond's favorite vodka martinis would contain about three, Davies says. Bond also drinks Champagne, red wine and sake, and seems to drink almost constantly when not imprisoned or otherwise indisposed.
Estimated total: 92 units a week. "It's a huge amount," Davies says. Someone who really drank that much would be "a significant alcoholic."
Bond's symptoms likely would include a tremor that "would be "catastrophic for his marksmanship," he adds.
The classic Bond books, from the 1950s and 1960s, and the ongoing series of Bond movies (which the study didn't scrutinize) have lots of pop culture company in glamorizing alcohol "without showing the consequences in the real world," says Caroline Knorr, parenting editor for the advocacy group Common Sense Media. Kids today, she says, see alcohol endorsements from celebrities in their Facebook feeds and see drunkenness played for entertainment on reality shows. At least, she says, the original Bond character is from an earlier time when the consequences were not so well known.
But those consequences did exist: Fleming, the author who created Bond, died of heart disease at age 56 after a life of heavy drinking and smoking, Davies says. "We think James Bond might have a similar life expectancy."