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Does Quitting Alcohol For A Month Really Benefit Your Health?

Published : Wednesday January 21, 2015 | Posted in : General Health

I’m of the opinion that some people take part in Dry January just to try and get over Christmas - I know that I sigh with relief each time the holiday ends and I return to my healthier (well, less Christmassy…) lifestyle. Something about the holidays triggers the bingeing in us and, by the time the New Year pulls around, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling like my liver could use a break. Which brings me on to the question at hand – does quitting alcohol for a month really benefit your health?

Dry January, a now annual drive to give up drinking for a month, is organised by Alcohol Concern, a national charity that helps those affected by alcohol misuse; the idea is that those giving up their alcohol habits will feel a change – whether that be in their waistline or wallet. The campaign slogan – save money-lose weight-feel energised – certainly hints at a better standard of living, and with all of the money raised through donations and sponsorships going to Alcohol Concern, the campaign really does carry a positive message. But that doesn’t answer the question.

In an article published by BT recently in response to Dry January, Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said that the country has seen “a 500% increase in deaths from liver disease since the 70s” with “more than 40 people a day” who “die from liver disease.” And according to the same article, nearly “20% of us are at risk of liver disease.” But is Dry January the answer? In the same article, it was highlighted that taking two or three consecutive days off alcohol allows a healthy liver to repair and that liver disease can be reversible, as long as it isn’t left too late. So Dry January is perfect then, surely?

Although we cannot doubt that there are some benefits that come with Dry January - especially if you’re a regular, heavy drinker – it is important to bear in mind that there might also be health benefits that come with alcohol. For example, researchers at the University of Illinois discovered that the natural compound, resveratrol, which can be found in red wine, could have a number of health benefits; whilst a study from Harvard stated that “moderate amounts of alcohol raises levels of high-density lipoprotein, HDL, or 'good' cholesterol and higher HDL levels are associated with greater protection against heart disease”. The Psychology department at Carnegie Mellon University even found that moderate alcohol consumption led to a decrease in cases of the common cold.

So what’s the upshot of all this? Moderation. Giving up for Dry January could well be the shift in habit that you need. Although it might be good to have the occasional glass of wine, it isn’t recommended that you drink every night – and if this is where you’ve had problems in the past then Dry January could be the ideal excuse to improve your relationship with alcohol, whilst raising money for a very worthy cause.

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