It’s good to start the year off fresh—that’s why so many New Year’s resolutions have to do with health, whether cutting back on sugar or going to the gym. But the latest trend in New Year’s resolutions aims to tackle another area of excess: alcohol.
In recent years, the Dry January movement, which began as a British public health campaign and encourages people to take a month-long break from drinking, has met with great success on this side of the pond. With good reason: The evidence, both research-based and anecdotal, suggests that cutting out alcohol, even temporarily, could be really good for you.
Case in point: In 2013, 10 staff members from the British magazine New Scientist put themselves on the line for science and monitored their health as they abstained from alcohol during Dry January. After 31 days, the results were impressive: Participants’ liver fat fell by 15% on average and blood glucose levels dropped an average 16%. The teetotalers lost weight—about 3.3 pounds on average—and reported improved sleep and concentration.
True, results based on a sample size of 10 cannot be deemed robust. Still, those outcomes are pretty darned impressive—and are echoed by the stats about the experiences of participants in the British Dry January campaign, as cited on its website: 71% say they slept better, 67% had more energy, 58% lost weight, and—a bonus!—88% saved money (yes, booze can be hard on your financial health, too).
Rajiv Jalan, a researcher at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School who oversaw the New Scientist study, explained that there’s no way of knowing how long these improvements in health might last. “Whether it’s 15 days or six months, we don’t know,” he said.
For those worried that temporary abstinence could lead to an overindulgent rebound (the way that people act after crash diets), science suggests otherwise. In 2016, researchers at the University of Sussex followed up with 857 British adults six months after they completed the Dry January challenge. They found that participants who successfully completed the month-long challenge reported reductions in their alcohol consumption.
The next time you wonder whether or not it’s time to lay off the hooch, just remember it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. Even a short break might prove beneficial.