A new year often means a list of resolutions for change, such as abstaining from drinking alcohol, stopping smoking, or living a healthier lifestyle. For one, “Dry January” has become immensely popular because it motivates people to abstain from drinking alcohol for 30 days, at least.
Does it matter if you give in and drink a bottle of beer now, or will it make a difference to continue your pledge not to drink alcohol this month? In 2020, it was projected that about one in 10 drinkers will try 'Dry January', so here are the things that can happen when you stop drinking for a month.
Dry January. Image Credit: KrakenPlaces / Shutterstock
Cutting out alcohol can bring about health benefits to your body. The current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that if alcohol should be consumed in moderation, about one drink per day for women and two drinks per day in men. Further, only adults of legal drinking age should consume alcohol.
Alcohol consumption is tied to a multitude of short and long-term health risks such as violence, sexual risk behaviors, various cancers, high blood pressure, and vehicular accidents. The guideline also recommends that people should not drink at all of they are pregnant, younger than 21, recovering alcoholics, driving a car or has a job that needs concentration and alertness, or if they are taking medicines that may interact with alcohol.
Health benefits of not drinking alcohol
In a report in 2016 about 'Dry January' states that those who abstained from drinking for a month reported that they slept better, lost some weight, saved money, had improvements in their skin and hair, and had more energy throughout the day.
In terms of psychological health, people who did not drink alcohol had shown positive psychological effects, such as improved sleep patterns and better concentration. In another study from the Royal Free Hospital in London in 2015 reports that participants who stopped drinking for a month had reduced levels of glucose and cholesterol, decreased blood pressure, losing 40 percent of liver fat, and overall weight loss.
In 2018, another study was conducted by Professor Kevin Moore and colleagues. The study looked at 20 women who abstained drinking for 30 days and found that they had significant reductions in blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. The women also had a 25 percent decrease in insulin resistance, which is a major driver for the development of fatty liver disease and type 2 diabetes. Those who stopped drinking also experienced weight loss, and a drop in two growth factors that are tied to cancer development.
“These findings demonstrate that abstinence from alcohol in moderate-heavy drinkers improves insulin resistance, weight, BP and cancer-related growth factors. These data support an independent association of alcohol consumption with cancer risk and suggest an increased risk of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease,” the researchers wrote on the paper.
There are other health benefits of stopping alcohol for a month, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, giving the liver a break, decreased risk of cancer, and improved brainpower. Cirrhosis of the liver can occur in patients who consume alcohol excessively. Though it’s not an acute illness, it can develop in the long term due to excessive drinking of alcohol, which is more than one drink in women and two drinks in men every day.
In people who drink alcohol, there can be changes in their liver, which can eventually lead to liver disease. Stopping drinking can reverse the damage on the liver, and the organ can rest.
Long-term excessive drinking can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension and heart disease. Drinking alcohol in high amounts can increase blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for a heart attack or stroke. Alcohol drinking can also increase cholesterol levels in the blood, which is also a factor that can heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Stopping alcohol intake for a month can help boost brain power, allowing you to be able to concentrate more and become more focused. Lastly, long-term abstinence from alcohol drinking can reduce the risk of developing cancers in the esophagus, head, and neck, liver, colorectal, and breast.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). Fact Sheets - Moderate Drinking. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm Ballard, J. (2016).
- What is Dry January?. British Journal of General Practice. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684010/
- Moore, K., Mehta, G., and Cronberg, A. et.al. (2018). Short-term abstinence from alcohol and changes in cardiovascular risk factors, liver function tests and cancer-related growth factors: a prospective observational study. British Medical Journal (BMJ). https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/5/e020673
- One in five Americans is participating in Dry January - https://today.yougov.com/topics/health/articles-reports/2019/01/11/dry-january-2019
- Evidence that Dry January changes behaviour for good BMJ 2016; 352 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i599 (Published 04 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i599 - https://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i599
- Risk thresholds for alcohol consumption: combined analysis of individual-participant data for 599 912 current drinkers in 83 prospective studies Wood, Angela MWood, Angela M et al. The Lancet, Volume 391, Issue 10129, 1513 - 1523 - https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)30134-X/fulltext