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(NEW YORK) — If you’re feeling hungover from 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 dry in January, or Dry 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 by Alcohol Change U.K., a charity focused on reducing alcohol harm. For the past several years, the initiative has proved popular in the United States and other countries too.
What are the health benefits of Dry January?
While research on how quitting alcohol for a month affects your body is still limited, several studies have shown psychological and health benefits.
Over one dozen 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 in 2013 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.
Another study out of the U.K. had nearly 100 participants abstain from drinking alcohol for a month and another nearly 50 participants continue drinking alcohol as normal.
They found that moderate-heavy drinkers who took a break from alcohol had improved insulin resistance, weight, blood pressure, and cancer-related growth factors.
The researchers do warn, however, that the study does not show that a short-term ‘detox’ period is all that is required to ‘refresh’ the liver or achieve other health gains. Abstaining from alcohol for a month is only one part of addressing negative effects from longer-term alcohol consumption.
People who drink excessive amounts of alcohol are at higher risk of death and many medical conditions.
Excessive alcohol use is the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, according to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
People who drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol are more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, nerve damage, infections including pneumonia and even certain cancers like breast cancer.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol may also have a negative impact on mental health, including memory loss, depression and anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association.
Who should try Dry January?
Dr. Fulton Crews, director of the Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said attempting to stop drinking for Dry January is a good opportunity for people to see if they have an actual addiction to alcohol.
“Many people are in denial about their drinking and hazardous drinking, and if they try to stop and …….