Dry January is an annual campaign started by the charity Alcohol Concern. As its name implies, it is to be a dry month, meaning not a drop of alcohol will be consumed by all participants. With holiday festivities having just ended, Dry January is a good way to give drinking booze a rest, allowing the body to recover. It also highlights how simply stopping for a month can do a lot of good for the health, encouraging cutting back on alcohol in general.
Alcohol Concern started Dry January in the United Kingdom, where nearly a quarter of adults in East Sussex alone are consuming booze at unhealthy levels, drinking over 50 units a week or eight units a day for men or 35 units a week or six units a day for women. In 2014, over 17,000 people all over the country signed up to participate, receiving tips and tools to help them stay on track.
"The New Year is a time when people often make a resolution to put the excesses of the festive season behind them. People who signed up for Dry January last year found that taking part allowed them to reset their alcohol use for months afterwards, allowing them to drink less and to drink less frequently," said Cynthia Lyons, acting health director for East Sussex.
The staff of New Scientist took on the Dry January challenge last year, not just to reset their drinking, but more so to determine if skipping out on booze for a short period of time actually has tangible health benefits. To find out, they teamed up with Rajiv Jalan from University College London's Institute of Liver and Digestive Health and got tested at London's Royal Free Hospital.
For five weeks, 14 staff members participated, with 10 abstaining from alcohol and the remaining four drinking alcohol as they normally would. The four didn't experience significant changes by not giving up alcohol but the 10 are a different story.
For starters, their liver fat levels fell by 15 percent on average. Fat accumulation precludes liver damage so a reduction in fat levels is good news. Their blood sugar levels also dropped by an average of 16 percent, sitting well within the normal range at 4.3 millimoles per liter.
Alcoholic beverages pack in a lot of calories so those who went dry last January also lost an average of 3.3 lbs without any added effort. Those who didn't drink alcohol also reported they slept better and were able to focus more on their day-to-day tasks, representing significant effect on work performance and overall quality of life.