Most of us like a drink now and then – after all, what else gets served in a glass in a conveniently comfortable venue, that happens to be an instant stress buster and social lubricant? But just because alcohol is a part of everyday life, doesn’t mean it necessarily should be...
Teetotal For A Month The results are in on the first ever wide-ranging study into taking a month off alcohol, and they have raised some eyebrows. It turns out that not only does abstinence lower blood pressure by 6%, cholesterol by 13% and diabetes risk, but it also slashes the levels of cancer-related proteins in the blood. A total of 144 moderate to heavy drinkers were studied, who put away 30 units a month. Then 94 of them gave up the grog and blood samples were taken from each group.
Abstainers reduced body weight by 1.5% in a month – about the same as from dieting
We all know how drinking beer gives us a belly, but the study showed that it’s more than empty calories that are at fault. The abstainers insulin resistance fell by 26%, on average. This resistance makes the hormone insulin less good at removing blood sugar from the bloodstream, which raises the risk of type 2 diabetes and makes you pile on the pounds. In fact, the abstainers logged a 1.5% reduction in body weight, about the same as you could expect from dieting.
Keeping Cancer At Bay The links between drinking alcohol are well known, but the team also found that abstaining led to steep drops in two growth factors for cancers. One factor, which helps tumours to grow by biding blood vessels, dropped by 41%, while another fell by 74%. What’s not clear is how long these effects might last once you start drinking again.
The Reductionist Effect Even if you don’t extend the month off booze into the rest of your year, the study showed that the fact you’ve been able to give it a complete rest may affect your drinking afterwards – for the better. When researchers asked the abstainers how much they drank seven months later they discovered they were drinking 20% less.
Those chronically abusing alcohol were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia
Pickling Your Brains If you needed another reason to press pause on your drinking habits, then another 2018 study has found a link between soaking your brain in a booze bath and the kind of early-onset dementia that can strike people in their professional primes. French researchers looked at one million patients released from hospital and found that those chronically abusing alcohol were twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia – 16.5% of the men. Just one of the factors causing this is that ethanol and its byproduct acetaldehyde are toxic to the brain and can lead to long-term and functional brain damage.
Read The Small Print There are studies that seem to find a link with moderate drinking, within recommended limits, and good heart health – even extended lifespan. But the devil is in the detail. The 2018 study that found alcohol may have a more positive effect on lifespan than exercising beyond aged 90 just looked at the dataset and made a correlation – it didn’t consider the effect of socialising on health, for instance, in the drinker’s group. Another 2018 study found that red wine could help teeth and gum health, but used much higher concentrations of the chemical responsible than are naturally found in wine.
Your Liver Takes A Silent Hit One problem with regular alcohol consumption is you can’t feel the hit it’s giving your liver. Because alcohol is processed by the liver it’s on the front lines, and leads to fat being deposited inside liver cells. Research says that 90% of people who drink more than 16g of alcohol a day develop fatty liver, which is usually symptomless but is reversible. Even more damaging is binge drinking, which can inflame the liver, killing liver cells which are replaced with scar tissue, leading to irreversible cirrhosis.
WHAT NEXT? Watch Paul Churchill revealing how he was ‘duped’ by alcohol into becoming an addict, and why it kills more people each year than every other drug combined…
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