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Month-long alcohol break 'boosts health'

29 October 2015 08:18

Drinkers were monitored during a Dry January campaign

Drinkers were monitored during a Dry January campaign

Going without alcohol for a month could help to prevent serious illnesses developing in later life, a study suggests.

Regular drinkers who took a break from it for four weeks saw benefits for their liver function, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

They were also at a lower risk of developing diabetes and liver disease, according to researchers from University College London.

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Dry January

More than 100 relatively healthy men and women in their 40s were monitored by the researchers while they took part in a Dry January campaign.

The women had typically been drinking 29 units of alcohol per week, while the men were on 31 units - both above government guideline levels.

The study, funded in part by London's Royal Free Hospital, found that after four weeks their "liver stiffness" - an indication of damage and scarring - had been reduced by 12.5%.

Their insulin resistance, which measures the risk of diabetes, had fallen by 28%.

Those who abstained for a month also lost weight and reported better concentration levels and quality of sleep.

'More research needed'

Liver specialist Professor Kevin Moore, who co-authored the study, says the people involved in the research were "probably average drinkers".

The patients, who were studied both before and after Dry January, experienced "substantial improvement in various parameters of the liver", Prof Moore says.

"The other parameters, blood pressure, cholesterol, how well the subjects slept, were also substantial".

If there was a "blockbuster drug" that reduced blood pressure and improved cholesterol and insulin resistance, it would be "worth billions", he added.

It is hoped that public health bodies will take notice of the study, but the scientists say more work needs to be done to establish the lasting effects of abstinence.