Giving up alcohol for just one month lowers a person’s blood pressure, reduces their risk of cancer and could help them lose nearly half a stone, research suggests.
Abstaining from alcohol for just four weeks also eases insomnia, aids concentration and boosts liver health, according to a study broadcast on the BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor.
Campaigns to quit alcohol for a month, such as Dry January, have been criticised for encouraging people to binge drink once the four weeks are over.
But TV doctor Michael Mosley, host of the BBC 2 show, states there are ‘clear benefits to be had from going dry for a month’.
Lead author Professor Rajiv Jalan, from University College London, said: ‘If giving up alcohol for a month was a drug, this drug would be worth billions of dollars.’
The researchers analysed 26 volunteers, some of which drank less than the government recommended 14 units a week and some four times as much.
One of the female volunteers claimed she had never given up alcohol for a month and had been drinking on and off since she was 13.
All of the participants were weighed beforehand, with their blood pressure and liver health also being assessed. Blood tests were also taken to determine their risk of cancer.
The volunteers also completed questionnaires that assessed their mental health and sleep quality.
Half of the participants continued to drink as normal while the remainder cut out alcohol for four weeks.
The experiment was deliberately carried out in July.
This was due to many people choosing to give up alcohol in the new year, alongside vows to exercise more and eat better.
It is therefore often unclear what lifestyle change is causing such people to feel better or produce healthier test results.
Despite July often being a month full of BBQs, parties and weddings, most of the volunteers managed to abstain from alcohol.
After eight days, one said she felt ‘amazing’, while another added all she missed was ‘the social aspect of drinking’.
When the health tests were repeated after an alcohol-free month, all of the abstainers saw an improvement to their wellbeing.
‘There’s a significant reduction in blood pressure and their weight was reduced by nearly 2-to-3kg [0.31-to-0.47 stone],’ Professor Jalan said on the BBC programme.
Volunteers also reported sleeping better, having improved concentration and generally just feeling healthier.
‘What was really impressive was a reduction in liver fat, which was reduced by almost 20 per cent in heavy drinkers and by 10 per cent in the light drinkers,’ Professor Jalan added.
Circulating cancer markers in the blood also reduced among both the light and heavy drinkers.
Once the experiment ended, the drinkers were free to return to their normal habits, while the researchers continued to monitor their health for a further three weeks.
While the light drinkers among the volunteers went back to their old ways, the heavy drinkers cut back by up to 70 per cent.
Some even gave up alcohol entirely.
Although the study included less than 30 people, it’s findings suggest cutting out alcohol, even over the short term, benefits a person’s health.
Dr Mosley concluded: ‘Based on this study there are clear benefits to be had from going dry for a month.’
Alcohol has been linked to everything from liver and heart disease to cancer and dementia.
In 2017, more than five million Britons gave up drinking for dry January or Stoptober, according to the programme.
This comes after research released earlier this year found alcohol sales in England would fall by 38 per cent from £35 billion to £22 billion a year if everyone kept to the recommended 14 units a week.
A quarter of drinkers fail to stick to the Government’s guidance of no more than 14 units a week, according to a study by the University of Sheffield.