Giving up alcohol for a month prevents serious illnesses in later life, study finds

By @iamkarlatecson on
Alcohol
(IN PHOTO)Men drink beer at a restaurant in Hanoi in this July 20, 2009 file photo. Alcohol and its consequences kill 2.3 million people a year around the world, according to the World Health Organisation: that amounts to 3.8 percent of all deaths, ranking drink just below unsafe sex and just above malnutrition in the top 10 causes of death. To match feature ALCOHOLISM/PILLS REUTERS

Staying sober and avoiding alcohol for a month can reduce the risk of developing life-threatening diseases later in life, a new British study claims. 

Researchers from the University College London revealed that patients who gave up drinking alcohol for four weeks experienced benefits for their liver function, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The patients were also observed to have lower risks of developing diabetes and liver disease, according to a report published in the Telegraph

Those who participated in the month-long abstinence also reported that they lost weight by as much as six pounds, and improved their concentration and sleeping, according to researchers. 

The study, funded in part by Royal Free Hospital in London, tracked more than 100 relatively healthy men and women in their 40s who participated in a “dry January” campaign. 

The women involved in the study had been drinking an average of 29 units of alcohol a week, which is equivalent to more than four units a day. On the other hand, the male participants had been drinking an average of 31 units. Both of these are above the government’s guideline levels. 

According to the current official guidance, men should not regularly exceed four units a day, while women should not have more than three units. The researchers studied the subjects before and after the dry month. 

After four weeks, the damage and scarring of the patients’ livers were reduced by 12.5 percent. Their insulin resistance, which is a measurement of diabetes risk, was also found to be lower at 28 percent. 

Professor Kevin Moore, who co-authored the study, said that public health bodies should be interested in the study.

“Does it have a sustained impact? We think we will find people drink less going forward. The next thing would be to extend the dry January beyond one month to two months, three months,” Moore told the Telegraph.

He noted, however, that more work is needed to establish the lasting effects of abstinence. 

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute agrees that there needs to be greater awareness of the cumulative dangers of drinking. According to Dr Caroline Miller, the institute’s director of the population health research group, 33 per cent of South Australian men and 10 percent of women are drinking more than the recommended safer level of consumption of no more than two standard drinks a day.

“Alcohol consumption here is quite normalised and while the dangers of drink driving and violence from excess alcohol consumption are well known, less is discussed about chronic disease risks such as the elevated risks of a range of cancers from long-term excess consumption,” Miller said in an interview with The Australian

Taking a month off now and then would do no harm and would be quite healthy, she added.

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