glass with lemonHere we are halfway through January and you might say it's dry around here. Not because of the dry Arizona climate but rather a phenomenon simply known as Dry January. People voluntarily giving up alcohol for a month. Why?

About 1 in every 10 people in the United Kingdom (UK) drink according to a recent poll. Every hour one person dies of alcohol related issues. That's why a UK group started Dry January. The group is not anti-alcohol but if the stats for the UK are similar to those in other countries, they hope drinkers will recognize that alcohol is not as harmless as it may seem. In fact, their research shows people who gave up alcohol for a month noted amazing health benefits, even in that short amount of time.

The group, Alcohol Change UK, is a new charity formed by the merger of Alcohol Research UK and Alcohol Concern. They registered the term Dry January in mid-2014 and since then have raised awareness on a global level. Drinking has become so casual and socially accepted, perhaps we need a step back or as the group says, drinkers need to "reset their relationship with alcohol" and understand why they drink and what it does to their health.

The published research in the British Medical Journal consisted of data from more than 800 participants who took part in Dry January 2018. Most people know about the long term risks of alcohol on the liver. But alcohol has a body wide effect as participants found out. Improved health markers showed up in lower blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, reduced risk of diabetes and decreased levels of cancer related proteins in the blood. That's not all.

The participants had an impressive list of short term benefits as well before the month was over.

  • 93% felt a sense of achievement
  • 88% saved money
  • 82% thought more about their relationship with alcohol
  • 80% felt more in control of their drinking
  • 76% learned more about when they drink & why
  • 71% realized they could enjoy themselves & relax without a drink
  • 70% felt general health improved
  • 71% had better quality sleep
  • 67% felt more energetic
  • 58% lost weight
  • 57% experienced better concentration
  • 54% had brighter, firmer skin
  • 40% spent more quality time with friends & family

Glass with limeDid you miss the call to be dry for January 2020? There's no magic in that month. You can do it any month as long as it is for the 31 days. Since it takes about 21 days to break any habit, abstaining for a month may mean less drinking long term due to the noticeable benefits. Those who abstained for the whole month either stayed off alcohol for the next 6 months or drank less.

Alternatives to that glass of alcohol could be seltzer water with a sprig of peppermint, slice of lemon or wedge of lime. For more information, visit the Alcohol Change UK website. There are quizzes (even one to test your alcohol consumption), research, tips for not drinking and even an app for more support should you want to try the program.

Sources: Mehta G, et al. Short-term abstinence from alcohol and changes in cardiovascular risk factors, liver function tests and cancer-related growth factors: a prospective observational study. BMJ Open 2018. Alcohol Change UK website research data on Dry January 2018 by Drs. Visser & Lockwood 10/18.

Note: Data from the 2019 Dry January showed similar findings with even more participants. The authors noted that the highest benefits were among those who abstained the entire month versus those who only abstained for a week or two, suggesting health benefits improved over time and abstinence.

©TyH Publications (M. Squires)