Page last updated: February 14, 2014
A break from alcohol shows health benefits

A team of staff from the New Scientist magazine have generated the first evidence that giving up alcohol for a month might be good for you, at least in the short term, after teaming up with Rajiv Jalan at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School (UCLMS) to investigate.

On 5 October, 14 members of the New Scientist staff – all of whom consider themselves to be “normal” drinkers – went to the Royal Free Hospital in London and answered questionnaires about their health and drinking habits. They had ultrasound scans to measure the amount of fat on the liver and blood samples were taken to analyse levels of metabolic chemicals linked with the liver and overall health.

For the next five weeks, 10 drank no alcohol while four continued as normal. On 9 November, they returned to the hospital to repeat the tests. There had been no significant changes in any of the parameters measured for the four people who didn’t give up alcohol, but the changes were dramatic and consistent across all 10 abstainers. Liver fat fell on average by 15%, and by almost 20% in some individuals. Jalan says this is highly significant, because fat accumulation on the liver is a known prelude to liver damage. It can cause inflammation, resulting in liver disease.

The blood glucose levels of the abstainers dropped by 16% on average, from 5.1 to 4.3 millimoles per litre. The normal range for blood glucose is between 3.9 and 5.6 mmol/l. Total blood cholesterol, dropped by almost 5%, from 4.6 to 4.4 mmol/l. A healthy amount is considered anything below 5.2 mmol/l. “Basically, you’re getting improved glucose and cholesterol management,” says Kevin Moore, consultant in liver health services at UCLMS. Ratings of sleep quality improved on a scale from 1 to 5 increasing from 3.9 to 4.3. Ratings of concentration also soared 18% from 3.8 to 4.5. The only negative was that people reported less social contact. The experiment gives no indication of how long the improvements persist. “Whether it’s 15 days or six months, we don’t know,” says Jalan. However, it lays the ground for larger studies, he says. “What you have is a pretty average group of British people who would not consider themselves heavy drinkers, yet stopping drinking for a month alters liver fat, cholesterol and blood sugar, and helps them lose weight,” says Moore. Source: Here’s to

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