Here’s why a (small) break from alcohol could be the best thing you do for your health this year 22



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At the risk of being unpopular, we bring you news from the cutting edge of science. Well, actually, from the staff of New Scientist, who took on the personal challenge of determining whether it was worthwhile taking a break from alcohol, or merely a way of making yourself miserable.

New Scientist claims to have “generated the first evidence that giving up alcohol for a month might actually be good for you, at least in the short term”.

So what exactly did they find?

Fourteen volunteers from the magazine agreed to take part, 10 abstained from alcohol for five weeks, as would someone who was doing Dry July or FebFast, four continued drinking as normal. All were considered “normal” level drinkers. A liver expert from the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College, London Medical School, evaluated their health throughout the study.

The results were striking: during the course of the month, the non-drinkers’ liver fat decreased by 15 per cent, and their blood glucose fell by 16 per cent. There were no changes for those who continued drinking.

Liver disease affects more than 2 million Australians and is now the most rapidly increasing health condition worldwide, according to the PA Research Foundation.

The Institute’s Rajiv Jalan said the reduction in liver fat was highly significant, because fat accumulation on the liver is a known prelude to liver damage.

“This transition is the harbinger first for temporary scarring called fibrosis and ultimately a non-reversible type of scarring that destroys liver structure, called cirrhosis,” he said.

Participants also lost an average of 1.5 kilograms of weight and reported improved sleep. Blood cholesterol dropped by almost 5 per cent. The only negative was that people reported less social contact, New Scientist reports.

Most of the studies on alcohol and health involve patients with chronic liver conditions, it’s believed this is the first study into the the difference alcohol makes on healthy livers. Whether the benefits are seen or continued after 15 days or 50 will need to be the subject of further studies.


It’s pretty compelling evidence that a month’s break from alcohol is good news – would you give it a go? Why or why not?

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. My story is somewhat different. I had been teetotal all my life until I was 59. We went on a holiday to Tassie with some friends. One of those friends was determined to find a wine I liked. He was diligent and persistent and eventually he did find a wine I liked. I now like all white wines and have a glass with lunch everyday. I was telling my doctor and all he said was, well your liver is in very good condition so go for it. I am enjoying my wine for lunch and considering I am now 60 I think that I might die from some other cause before the alcohol gets me. Bottoms up.

    3 REPLY
  2. Thats great news! I hardly ever indulge in alcohol these days. Good to know that my liver appreciates it.

  3. I’ll stop again as soon as I run out of my duty free vanilla vodka and Kaluha. I saw the recipe that was going about on Facebook for a shot of each over ice cubes of frozen coffee so I used my allowance to buy a bottle of each last overseas trip. My new favourite tipple.

  4. I have two alcohol days a week. I am 71 and no way will I be giving up for a month. Life is too short.

  5. The problem with this type of experiment I would say the ones that did not drink once they went back to drinking all their levels would return to those at the beginning of the of the process?!……everything in moderation

  6. I don’t drink every day and I don’t drink a lot in volume. I’d try it, but I’d like to know what happens after you begin drinking again.

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