For many people the idea of a dry January has become much more common, and for some almost a ritual. The charity Alcohol Concern recently published figures showing that young people tend to drink more heavily, older people more frequently, and overall 9.6 million people in England drink in excess of the recommended daily limits. But how much good does can one month’s abstinence actually do?
A small study by New Scientist magazine in 2014 showed some surprising physical results from abstaining for a period even as brief as dry January. Although all those taking part had healthy livers their levels of liver fat fell by 15%. This is significant because fat accumulation is a prelude to liver damage, and fibrosis (temporary scarring of the liver).
Even greater was the drop in average levels of blood glucose, which fell by 23%. Higher levels of blood sugar can be an indicator of insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, and the study suggests that abstinence in dry January can have a positive effect on insulin resistance, as well as liver fat.
Along with the other physical improvements in lower cholesterol and weight loss those taking part also reported improvements in the quality of their life that started very early on. People’s quality of sleep showed a significant improvement almost immediately, and as a result so did their wakefulness during the day. The effects of this on their ability to concentrate, and to be more effective at work and in their personal life, were even more pronounced.
The fear from some quarters has been that people taking part in dry January will use it to justify increased drinking at other times. Those fears though look to be misplaced – a recent study led by Dr Richard de Visser of Sussex University showed that 72% of people who took part in dry January had gone on to adopt lower levels of drinking overall, with 4% continuing to abstain totally.
As well as the health benefits of lower levels of drinking – increased energy, improved sleep, and weight loss – people also reported that they found it easier to manage social events where alcohol was present without drinking. If you’re thinking of trying dry January you can find more information on making resolutions and keeping resolutions by clicking on the links.