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Abstaining from alcohol for one month offers significant and sometimes lasting benefits

Did your New Year’s resolutions including any of these goals: lose weight, get better sleep or generally take better care of your health?

If so, maybe you should put down that cocktail or glass of wine – not forever, just for a month.

Abstaining from alcohol for one month offers significant and sometimes lasting benefits, according to supporters of Dry January, a British health initiative that is growing in popularity in the US.

Ditching alcohol for 30 days improved liver function, blood pressure, and indicators associated with cancer among participants in a study by British liver specialists. Participants in that research project also lost an average of 3.3 to 4.4 pounds.

Another study found that heavy drinkers who abstained for a month were consuming half as much alcohol three weeks after their dry month. All participants in that study – both heavy and moderate imbibers – said that in the wake of their abstinence they experienced better sleep, an increased ability to concentrate and increased energy.

Some Dry January participants do experience a “rebound effect,” in which they drink more than they did before abstaining, according to a Sussex University study. But most people reduce their alcohol consumption in the months following Dry January. The majority of participants surveyed six months after Dry January reported that they were drinking fewer days a week (an average of 3.3, down from 4.3), consuming fewer drinks, and getting drunk less often.

Other lasting benefits reported by Dry January veterans included better skin, weight loss, more restful sleep, reduced spending, a sense of control over their drinking, and increased energy.

Not everyone is ga-ga for Dry January. Experts at the National Institutes of Health would prefer that people seeking Dry January-type health benefits take regular, shorter breaks from alcohol rather than “binge abstaining.” And medical experts all agree that excessive drinkers should not stop consuming alcohol without professional support. For such heavy users, alcohol withdrawal can be fatal.

Whether we’re talking about alcohol or food, moderate consumption is the best, most sustainable course for most of us. If kicking the booze for a month helps you redefine your definition of moderation (and its benefits), that’s a good thing. Heck, if it works, you can move on to something really challenging, like sugar.

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