Sunday, June 25, 2006

I Return, Bringing Glad Tidings

Latest Newspaper Column:

Newspapers are often criticized for not reporting enough "good news."

Why all this attention, the complaint goes, to wars and corruption and global warming and natural disasters? That stuff's s-o-o-o-o-o depressing. Why not talk about the good things that are happening in the world?

Well, for all you folks yearning for some good news, here's my gift to you, because I've just spent the last week on vacation and I'm in a good mood.

Our first piece of good news comes from the world of science.

It turns out, according to researches at Oregon State University, that beer may help reduce your risk of prostate cancer.

No, I'm not joking. It's actual science with guys in white lab coats and everything.

It seems that a chemical called xanthohumol "inhibits a protein in the cells along the surface of the prostate gland," according to the Associated Press. "The protein acts like a switch that turns on a variety of cancers, including prostate cancer." And, as it happens, xanthohumol is found naturally in the hops used to make beer.

It gets better. Researchers have previously discovered that lycopene, a chemical found in tomatoes (and preserved in tomato sauces) can also help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

So, beer all around! Someone call Domino's and tell them to get some pizza over here, stat!

Of course, there's one catch. In order to get enough xanthohumol into your system to make a difference, you'd have to drink an estimated 17 beers a day. And to get a useful level of lycopene, you'd have to eat four large pizzas. A day. So we'd better get busy. Prostate cancer is lurking and could strike at any moment.

If you're worried about possible liver damage from drinking enough beer daily to stun a Viking, science has more good news for you, at least if you love coffee like I do.

According to another AP story, researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif., recently discovered that "one cup of coffee per day cut the risk of alcoholic cirrhosis by 20 percent. Four cups per day reduced the risk by a whopping 80 percent.

"The coffee effect held true for women and men of various ethnic backgrounds."

And as it turns out, you don't even need to be a drunk to experience coffee's salubrious effects on the liver -- but it helps!

"The same study," according to the AP story, "found coffee drinkers had healthier results on blood tests used to measure liver function, whether or not they were heavy alcohol users," but that "coffee's effect on reducing liver enzymes in the blood was more apparent among the heavy drinkers in the study." Unfortunately for you tea drinkers, your little girly beverage does not have this effect.

So for that morning after those 17 beers, when caffeine is as necessary as oxygen, brew yourself up a big pot o' java, drink up, and have no fear.

But, you may fret, if I consume all that beer and pizza, I'll get fat. Well, that's true. But life is full of little trade-off's isn't it? And, as the experience of a man in Germany shows us, being fat may actually work to your advantage in certain situations, such as getting run over by a car.

When a 30-year-old man in Gifhorn, Germany, fell from his bicycle in front of a Volkswagen, both he and his doctors were amazed that he suffered nothing worse than a dislocated hip, a bloody nose and some scratches, despite the fact that the car ran straight over him.

Gifhorn police, according to the Reuters news agency, credit the man's amazing survival to his bulk: approximately 440 pounds.

"Someone smaller would probably not have been so lucky," commented police spokesman Sven-Marco Claus. Or looked as amusing falling off of his bicycle, I'll wager.

Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once observed that "beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." And now, it seems, science has caught up with old Ben, proving once again that religion and science are not incompatible. Beer, combined with pizza in massive quantities, can not only make you happy, not only healthy, but, it would seem, darn near invincible. And isn't that good news?

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go take my medicine.

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