Are you one of the smug thousands who gave up alcohol for January then downed a glass of wine or beer as the clock struck midnight on January 31?
Until this year, I’d always pooh-poohed the idea on the grounds that it’s the sort of thing problem drinkers do to convince themselves they don’t really have a problem.
And because one dry month can’t possibly undo all the ills of the past 11. Can it?
Yet a booze-free January has never been so popular.Dry January is an official event, promoted by Alcohol Concern, where people publicly sign up to the challenge and raise money for the charity.
Critics say the concept could mislead people into thinking a few weeks of abstinence can make up for a year of excess.
Professor Charles Bamforth, of the University of California, Davis, was widely quoted last weekend as saying: “Many people don’t realise that drinking in moderation has significant health benefits.
“You are seriously mistaken if you think having a month without drinking will protect you from the effects of excessive drinking for the rest of the year. The best advice is to drink moderately throughout the year.”
However, Alcohol Concern says the aim of Dry January isn’t to turn people teetotal but to get them thinking about drinking and to encourage them to drink less generally.
Emily Robinson, director of campaigns at Alcohol Concern, explains: “Many of us think the way we drink isn’t a problem, but having a few beers after work or a few glasses of wine at home too often can take you over safe limits and store up problems for the future.”
Excess alcohol raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, liver disease, depression, dementia and cancer of the mouth, throat, stomach, liver and breast. And it’s full of calories.
after an alcohol-free month, participants had lost an average of 3lb and had reduced blood glucose levels by 16% and cholesterol by 5%.
High blood glucose is a risk factor for diabetes while high cholesterol raises risk of heart disease and stroke.
In the meantime, Dry January Ambassador Dr Amber Appleton cites the most commonly reported benefits of an alcohol-free month as: “Better sleep and ability to concentrate, more energy, a more stable mood, weight loss, improved digestion, better immunity and better skin.”