Dry January: this is what happens to your body & brain when you give up alcohol

Cheers to dry January! Are you sipping your water right now, feeling pretty good about sticking to your new year’s resolution? Or are you delightfully hugging your wine glass, feeling sorry for the ones who are tormenting themselves for nothing? So, who’s right? Is abstaining from alcohol for a few weeks really beneficial for our health? Or is it just another challenge which does not make any difference in the long run?

So what happens when you give up alcohol for 5 weeks?

A study done by New Scientist and Rajiv Jalan, professor of Hepatology at University College London, tried to answer this question. 10 participants abstained from alcohol for 5 weeks while 4 continued drinking.

♠ The study showed that liver fat deceased by 15% to 20%. This is a great thing because accumulated liver fat can prelude liver damage.
♠ Blood glucose levels dropped by 16%. This is a sign of healthy blood sugar control. High levels are linked to type 2 diabetes.
♠ Also, the total blood cholesterol dropped by almost 5%.
♠ Another great benefit was that participants experienced better sleep: sleep quality was rated over 10% better. Although falling asleep might be easier with a few drinks, your sleep quality decreases (due to decreased REM sleep).

So many benefits! Then why don’t we all do it? Why is it so hard to give up this habit?

Why it’s so hard to quit drinking

Psychologist Bart Vemer explains that your body gets used to regular alcohol consumption. When you have a drink around 5 PM every day, your body starts asking for it. Your liver and brain become active in anticipation of a drink. After a while, this reaction is not only physical but also becomes psychological. For this reason it can be very hard to stop drinking. The social aspect makes it even harder. Most of the time we drink because we get together to have a good time. Trying to explain why you don’t drink that night can be exhausting.
The study participants reported that having less social contact was the only negative effect from giving up drinking for a few weeks.

Since this study did not look at the long term effects, more research is needed. But it looks as though laying off the booze for a few weeks has great benefits.

Will you give it a try?

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