A Healthier You
Dry January: What is it and how beneficial can giving up alcohol be?
(ABC) – If you’re still feeling hungover from that New Year’s Eve champagne or had one too many boozy eggnogs over the holidays, let this January be a fresh start.
Taking the challenge of going drying in January, i.e. having no alcohol for the entire month, is one resolution that might actually make you healthier.
The Dry January campaign was started in 2013 in England and is now making waves on this side of the pond. Australia and New Zealand have also participated in similar challenges.
There has been limited research on how quitting alcohol for a month affects your body, but a few studies have shown psychological and health benefits.
In 2013, 14 staff members at the magazine New Scientist teamed up with researchers at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at the University College London Medical School to investigate the benefits of Dry January.
The staff members, who all considered themselves “normal” drinkers, underwent baseline testing with blood samples, liver ultrasound scans and questionnaires. For the next five weeks, 10 of them stopped drinking and four drank their normal amounts.
The people who stopped drinking had lower levels of liver fat (which can be a precursor to liver damage), improved blood sugars and lower cholesterol than they did at the beginning of the month. They also reported improved sleep and concentration. In contrast, the four people who kept drinking saw no benefit.
The University of Sussex reported that 2015 Dry January participants in the United Kingdom also had several other benefits: 82 percent felt a sense of achievement, 79 percent saved money, 62 percent had better sleep, 62 percent had more energy and 49 percent lost weight.
Staying dry for January may also help jump-start people to give up alcohol for longer.
Although most people who participate in Dry January return to drinking, up to 8 percent stay dry six months later, according to Public Health England and the British Medical Journal.
And those who go back to drinking drink less. A 2015 study conducted in the United Kingdom and published in the journal Health Psychology found that people who participated in Dry January drank less often, had fewer drinks when they did drink and were drunk less often six months after Dry January was completed.
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