Turn wine into water: the health benefits of doing dry January

After Christmas we all pledge to lay off the booze, but whether we stick to that promise is another story. Here are some of the health benefits that could encourage you to stop drinking this month altogether.

The beginning of a new year marks the start of dry January – a charitable programme set up by Alcohol Change UK in a bid to encourage adults to ditch the bottle for an entire month. New research by various organisations has highlighted that more people across the UK take part every year.

clear drinking glass with ice cubes

Statista, the leading statistics portal, has reported that 15% of women and 14% of men took part in last year’s dry January challenge, and according to drinkaware, an independent organisation that helps people overcome alcohol problems, the percentage of people who drink less than once a week increased to 39% in 2023 from 33% in 2019.

However, although these statistics are pointing in the right direction, further progress can be made. Dr Gautam Mehta, senior lecturer at UCL’s Institute for Liver and Digestive Health, has said that taking part in dry January leads ‘to tangible health benefits by the end of the month’, which is all the more reason to take part.

In a recent study, which has been published on the BMJ Journals, Dr Mehta highlights that abstaining from drinking alcohol for a month can help aid weight loss and lower blood pressure.

‘Our study saw a weight loss of around 2kg, a decrease in blood pressure of around five per cent, and improvement in diabetes risk of almost 30%,’ Dr Mehta said. ‘We also noted large decreases in blood-growth factors that are linked to certain cancers. However, we don’t know how long these benefits last, or whether they translate to long-term improvements in health.’

To conduct his research, Dr Mehta examined 94 healthy men and women, of which half stopped drinking for a month and the other half didn’t.

Against this backdrop, Marcus Munafò, professor of biological psychology at the University of Bristol, recently told BBC Good Food that people should consider not drinking for the duration of January to improve their health and stick to ‘recommended low-risk guidelines across the whole year’ if they want to experience real benefits.

Professor Munafò said: ‘Dry January might be a helpful way to re-establish control over your drinking, and could have some short-term benefits, but it’s unlikely to have major long-term health benefits in itself.’

Image: Vinicius “amnx” Amano

More on this topic:

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