This is crunch time. Are you really going to commit to that resolution or have you already thrown in the towel after just six days? Well, if it has to do with cutting back on the booze, power through. You're not alone. Many people are participating in what's called "Dry January" or "Drynuary," which means giving up alcoholic beverages for a month. And apparently, it's worth it.
The staff at the magazine New Scientist decided to find out if such a short-term period of alcohol abstinence could actually have health benefits, using themselves as the lab rats. The findings of their small experiment suggest the answer is yes.
In late 2013, 14 members of the magazine's staff — all of whom consider themselves to be "normal" drinkers — went to a hospital in London and answered questionnaires about their health and drinking habits, then underwent ultrasounds and gave blood samples. Then, 10 of them gave up alcohol for five weeks, while four of them continued drinking normally. After, they returned to the hospital to repeat the tests.
"Normal" drinking for this group ranged from 10 units of alcohol per week — which is about eight bottles of beer — to 80 units, or 64 beers, per week. This may seem high, but keep in mind that drinking is a national pastime in England, and the doctor told them that none of them were "problem drinkers."
Now, listen to these findings. You'll want to put your wine glass down so you don't spill anything.
Dr. Rajiv Jalan, a liver specialist at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London, analyzed the results. He said that that among the abstainers, liver fat — a preface to liver damage — fell by at least 15%. For some, it fell almost 20%.
Surprisingly, those who quit drinking also saw their blood glucose levels — a key factor in determining diabetes risk — drop by an average of 16%.
"I was staggered," said Kevin Moore, consultant in liver health services at UCLMS. "I don't think anyone has ever observed that before."
The only negative was that people reported less social contact.
However, the findings cannot predict how this abstinence would work in the long-run. Blowing off booze for the month of January surely makes for a healthier entrance into February, but we don't know if the benefits would persist come March, April, and so on.
Just because you stop for a month doesn't mean you can just go on a crazy binge for the 11 other months. Do that, and you'll likely just drive your liver fat and blood glucose levels right back up. What's so exciting about this study is that it shows how quickly the benefits were evident, so we can only imagine the effects of prolonged abstinence (or even just cutting back).
And if these British journalists who are accustomed to drinking 64 beers a week can do it, why can't you? Try it out and let us know how you feel at the end of #Drynuary!