After a very gluttonous end of the year, many attempt to begin the next on a healthier note by giving up all of their favorite indulgences, like alcohol. Dry January, as it’s known, began in the United Kingdom and has become popular in the U.S., too, as millions attempt to skip that wine with dinner or after-work drinks.
But is a 30-day break long enough to see true health benefits?
Yes, reports suggest, although some of the benefits, like weight loss, may be short-lived. Many abstainers do drop a few pounds after giving up alcohol, Health reports, citing a study from last year that revealed binge drinkers were 41 percent likelier to be overweight. Data collected over five years showed just one binge drinking session a month made a difference in weight. Skipping the drinks means avoiding that extra weight.
You may not identify as a binge drinker, but chances are you have been at some point. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates that one in six American adults binge drink roughly four times per month. For women, at least four drinks consumed in one instance is considered a binge and for men it's up to five alcoholic beverages. The CDC reports that most people have eight alcoholic beverages during a binge.
Given that alcoholic drinks are empty calories—there's no health value—it’s no surprise that binge drinking can lead to weight problems. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion estimates that a 12-ounce beer has roughly 150 calories while five ounces of wine contains about 120 calories.
Swearing off alcohol for a month means not only will your clothes fit better, but also you’ll sleep more soundly. According to ScienceDaily, a review of studies from 2013 revealed that high quantities of alcohol could impact the quantity of rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep. This deeper phase of sleep is linked to concentration, learning and mood, so the more we receive the better.
In 2013, the staff at New Scientist decided to conduct their own experiment about what happened to their bodies after giving up the bottle for 30 days. Although the sample size was very small—only 14 participants—people who gave up drinking reported better sleep quality and concentration, according to the story.
Additionally, the New Scientist staff reported other health benefits: the amount of fat on those who abstained from drinking declined by 15 percent and blood sugar decreased 16 percent.
But as the article notes, it’s unclear how long the benefits last. “Whether it’s 15 days or six months, we don’t know,” Rajiv Jalan, hepatologist at the University College London, told New Scientist. Jalan helped the team conducted the experiment.
There is one major benefit of giving up drinks for the month. As Health reports, a study in 2016 revealed that people who participated in Dry January continued to have fewer drinks each day and imbibed less often. The goodness of that could be long lasting considering, as Newsweek previously reported, drinking any amount of alcohol can increase cancer risk.