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What Happens When You Give Up Alcohol for a Month? This Study May Surprise You

The 411 on "Dry January."


What happens when you give up alcohol for a month? Many people ask that question before taking a booze break during “Dry January” after the holiday season. But since many of those same people also spend the first month of the year exercising and eating better — as per New Year’s resolutions — it might be difficult for them to see exactly how much of a difference avoiding alcohol actually makes. That’s why the BBC program Trust Me I’m a Doctor joined forces with scientists from University College London and the Royal Free Hospital to find the answer in a 2018 study.

The Study

The research team, led by liver specialist Rajiv Jalan, PhD, divided 26 volunteers into two groups: one that would forgo drinking alcohol the whole month of July, and another that would drink as much as they usually did. At the beginning of the month, all the participants got full health exams, including blood pressure and liver checkups. Then, they all got tested again at the end of the month. According to the BBC, results showed that the folks who gave up booze saw several improvements in their health, including weight loss, liver-fat loss, better-quality sleep, and higher levels of concentration. This was especially true for people who drank more “heavily” than others — defined in this study as more than six glasses per week.

But that wasn’t the end of the study; researchers also wanted to find out if the people who gave up alcohol would go back to all their old habits — and lower-quality health — after pouring themselves a glass again. So the researchers decided to test all the participants again, three weeks after the study. As it turned out, the people who drank more heavily before the research were drinking 70 percent less than they were before the study started. As for the lighter drinkers, they had already resumed their prior drinking habits.

The Bottom Line

The researchers said, “While this study involved only a small number of people, our results did seem to suggest that cutting drink in the short term did improve the health markers we measured. If you’re a light drinker, the reduction in your risk of contracting an alcohol-related disease is already low and giving up alcohol for a month will only result in a slight risk reduction.”

Considering the heavier drinkers were drinking less after abstaining from alcohol for a month, researchers said the results may also suggest that a break could possibly help these folks re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol and perhaps even drink less in the future.

So, in short: If you’re considering taking a month off of alcohol for weight loss or a healthier lifestyle, it certainly can’t hurt. Maybe after a new month, you’ll even see a new you.

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