Taking a month-long break from drinking alcoholic beverages has been found to provide health benefits to individuals in terms of preventing severe illnesses from developing later in life.
A new study conducted by University College London (UCL) researchers suggests that adults who abstain from consuming alcohol for four weeks experienced improved liver function and lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. These individuals enjoyed lower risks for developing liver disease and diabetes as well.
Liver specialist Kevin Moore and his colleagues at UCL discovered that those who participated in the month-long abstinence were also able to lose weight and improve their sleeping and concentration.
"If you took a drug that reduced blood pressure and improved cholesterol and insulin resistance it would be a blockbuster drug that would be worth billions," Moore said.
The study, which received partial funding from the Royal Free Hospital of London, examined data collected from 102 men and women involved in a "dry January" program. All participants were in their 40s and in relatively good health.
Female participants had been consuming 29 units of alcoholic beverage on average each week, which was comparable to more than four units each day, while male participants drank around 31 units of alcoholic beverage.
Both amounts were within the guideline levels of the government.
The UCL researchers found that the participant's liver stiffness, considered to be an indication of liver damage and scarring, was reduced by as much as 12.5 percent, while their resistance to insulin had dropped by 28 percent after four weeks of alcohol abstinence.
Moore said that the participants were likely average drinkers, or those who regularly consumed alcohol in excess of the government guidelines. They were observed before and after participating in the dry January program for a month.
The researchers saw substantial improvements in various liver parameters. There were also improvements in the participants' cholesterol levels, blood pressure and quality of sleep.
Despite noting that there is more work to be done in order to determine the long-term impact of alcohol abstinence, Moore said that government health agencies should consider their findings.
The researchers are now looking to study the effects of dry January beyond four weeks.
Photo: Johan Viirok | Flickr