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“Shaken, not stirred”: James Bond’s Martini is healthier

Moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages has been associated with a decreased risk of several age-related diseases, including cardiovascular disease, stroke and cataract. This effect has been tentatively ascribed to the antioxidant activities of alcohol, flavonoids or polyphenols in the beverages, since it has been established that the antioxidant vitamin E reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cataract development.

The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Western Ontario in Canada conducted a study to determine if the preparation of a Martini has an influence on their antioxidant capacity. The study, published in the British Medical Journal on December 18th 1999, found that the shaken gin Martinis were able to break down hydrogen peroxide and leave only 0.072% of the peroxide behind, versus the stirred gin Martini, which left behind 0.157% of the peroxide. Thus a shaken Martini has more antioxidants than a stirred one. Both shaken and stirred versions of gin Martini were more effective than gin or vermouth alone (0.072% of peroxide control for shaken martini, 0.157% for stirred v 58.3% for gin and 1.90% for vermouth). The reason for this is not clear, but it may well not involve the facile oxidation of reactive Martini components: control Martini through which either oxygen or nitrogen was bubbled did not differ in their ability to deactivate hydrogen peroxide (0.061% v 0.057%) and did not differ from the shaken martini. Moreover, preliminary experiments indicate that Martini wine is less well endowed with polyphenols than Sauvignon white wine or Scotch whisky (0.056 mmol/l [catechin equivalents] shaken, 0.060 mmol/l stirred v 0.592 mmol/l wine, 0.575 mmol/l whisky).

In the footnotes of the study, you can read that “(….) all staff on the project were summer students supported by Work Study, Canada Manpower, Youth Opportunities Unlimited Ontario, and by grants from Labatt Breweries (….). Corby Distilleries provided samples of gin and vermouth.

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For more details, see the British Medical Journal and Wikipedia.

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