Dry January Benefits. Temporary Discipline, Lasting Health:
Towards the end of every year at the holiday season, we all seem to have a few drinks.
And while that’s fine, it’s the excesses that cause problems.
A little bit of fun can sometimes spiral out of control and have unforeseen consequences.
But a relatively new program launched in the UK a few years ago is seeing some interesting results,
And the study data is stacking up to back those results up….
What The Hell Is A Dry January?:
So Dry January was a program released by Alcohol Change UK a few years ago.
And while their intent was not to start a new temperance movement,
It was to try to get people to slow down their drinking if not outright stop.
And the short answer is: Yes it does actually work, and people do benefit in areas from Self-Control, to Sleep, Alertness, Health, and Weight Loss.
It Started As An Interesting New-Year’s Resolution:
So back in 2012 Alcohol Change UK launched a program to try to reduce consumption of alcohol in the United Kingdom,
And ultimately, the harm that comes from too much.
The specific idea they had was to try it as a New Year’s Resolution.
People were already giving themselves new challenges to take on for changes they wanted to make, so why not add this one too?
And that’s how Dry January was born.
It’s Not Completely Against Alcohol:
They weren’t necessarily against alcohol, because what’s self-respecting British person could be?
As our cousins across the pond managed to out-drink us 5 to 1 on a regular basis.
So the whole “not drinking”-thing was not going to happen over there.
But they tried it, people signed up, and it’s only grown since.
By about 1000x between 2012 and 2018, just in the UK.
Science Starts Backing It Up:
And recently, at least informally, the study data has been stacking up to support their ideas.
For 2018 Robert DeVisser and his team, who had been authoring studies on the subject since 2015,
Conducted a new study on 2000 participants.
816 of them completed the program.
Out Of That Group, The Results Show:
1) Drinking days fell on average from 4.3 to 3.3 per week
2) Units consumed per drinking day dropped on average from 8.6 to 7.1
2a) 1 Pint of Average Beer is 2-2.5 units of alcohol
2b) 1 6oz. Glass of Wine is about 2 units
2c) 1 1.5oz Shot of 40% Alcohol is about 1.5 units
3) Frequency of being drunk dropped from 3.4 per month to 2.1 per month on average.
The Health-Benefits Also Included:
1) 70% had generally improved health
2) 71% slept better
3) 67% had more energy
4) 58% lost weight
5) 57% had better concentration
6) 54% had better skin
Note: The study these numbers come from is self-reported, and currently pre-publication.
We Are Number Two, And That Ain’t Too Bad:
Normally you would think that only the people who Complete a program to its full-extent are the winners.
And under most cases you would be right.
Because as amazing as the previous results may seem,
DeVisser’s earlier study showed that people who participated in Dry January events also retain the ability to exercise increased self-control about alcohol,
So not only was there no dreaded “Snap Back Effect” from the restrictions people put themselves through,
Which is a small miracle in itself,
Somehow, There Were Fewer Relapses:
Because many programs that are instituted to train people out of previously bad behavior patterns,
Often fail because of relapses.
This is often the case in dietary studies or diets in general,
As the behavior-modification that occurs over a temporary timeframe,
Is either too difficult to sustain or too complicated for the person to continue once outside the program.
But what happened with the Dry January results is that people kept their habits over the course of a minimum of 6 months afterward!
Simpler & Voluntarily Self-Directed:
And so this suggests at least two things.
One the simpler the program the better.
Two, the more the program is self–administered and simple, the higher the rate at which people will stick with it.
Because eventually they will be on their own.
Even The “Quitters” Win:
But here’s where the unexpected silver lining comes in.
People who attempted to participate in the Dry January program but did not complete it,
Still ended up reaping some of the benefits.
They still experienced all of the lifestyle, financial, and health benefits,
But just to a slightly-lesser extent than the people who fully completed the program.
And that is incredibly encouraging.
Because every time you try something, even if it’s new, or a new program, or a New Year’s resolution,
I Know, I Know. But The Journey Really IS The Destination!:
You always get the feeling that it’s a zero sum game or a black and white results.
You either win or you lose; Absolutely.
And although it’s a cliché, it is especially interesting that the participants in the Dry January program who didn’t finish it,
Did in fact reap the benefits of the procedure!
So this really is one instance about self-improvement being not about the Destination but about the Journey.
Now there has been a raging debate about the potential benefits of alcohol if any.
What’s The Agreed-Upon Safe Dosage?:
And it’s been going on for quite a while.
You have people on the Stanton Peel side of things.
Then you have the alarmists that organizations like the WHO, that put out studies saying alcohol and red meat will kill you,
And there is zero safe dosage.
As alarming as both of these two camps are, a new study usually comes out about every six months that says the opposite of the last one.
Furthermore, we are only just beginning to have the type of testing that will show us if we have hereditary weakness to the effects of things like alcohol-consumption.
You Never Really Know Until You Scan Your DNA, Until Then…:
Some of us may be predisposed to diseases that increasing frequency under the presence of alcohol consumption,
And others of us will not.
But right now, that type of knowledge seems just out of reach, by about 5 or 10 years.
And so the best advice we still have is just the good old moderation.
That limit as suggested by the CDC & EU health authorities seems to be approximately a maximum of two drinks/day for the average adult male,
And a maximum of one drink/day for the average adult female.
Some other studies suggest that there may be a lower correlation with diseases like cancer and drinks like wine and beer, than there is with hard liquor.
Alcohol-Reduction Helps Your Immune-System And Reduces Inflammation:
Back in the alcohol versus gut microbes post, we learned that while alcohol may not kill your good microbes,
But if you binge drink roughly in excess of four drinks in one sitting, some alcohol may make it past your stomach into the small intestine,
And cause micropores, permitting things called endotoxins to get out into your body,
Which creates an inflammatory response and injures your liver with micro-scarring,
Because it has to clean up something it is not normally designed to do.
So there is at least one really good reason not to binge drink that Dry January helps to reinforce.
Let’s Face It, The Brits Out-Drink Us:
Especially when you see the average number of drink units consumed in the UK per person per day.
It’s pretty high.
The dry January stats show that the participants of the program went down from an average of 8.6 units of alcohol per day to 7.1.
Ie: From about 4 glasses of wine/day down to 3.
That may not sound like a lot, but it is still a reduction of about 1 shot of vodka every single day.
In addition to that, there may be a reduction in the amount of Dementia cases going forward as a result of this effort.
Because there is a relationship between heavy-drinking and sleep disruption.
And people with disrupted sleep, generally have a higher tendency to come down with diseases of cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
A Dry January Reduces Your Nasty Hangovers, Too:
Not only that, but in the post about hangover cures, we also learned that the process in which you metabolize a drink goes:
And in that procedure your body has a certain amount of stored processing chemicals that can quickly turn alcohol into the Acetate byproduct.
Acetate is generally regarded as the chief suspect for the benefits of alcohol consumption.
Acetaldehyde is the chemical component that is thought to cause most of the negative and inflammatory effects.
If you can reduce the total amount of acetaldehyde that goes into your system by reducing the total amount of alcohol you consume,
Then you may be positively affecting your health going forward in ways that are not easy to understand immediately.
Weight-Loss & Fat-Loss Through Reduced Sugars & Calories:
Also, not only does alcohol come with an excess of calories,
But it carries them almost exclusively in fast-carbohydrates and sugars.
So as we’ve shown with previous posts on sugar, consumption of liquid carbohydrates is very unhealthy and leads to weight gain especially in the form of excess body fat.
Because of that the Dry January efforts may even result in a reduction in obesity.
Lose Weight By Banishing “The Drunchies”:
Not only that, but there is also “The Aperitif Effect”, or The Drunchies.
In which case, you get more hungry after you’ve had enough drinks to constitute binge drinking,
After which, you are suddenly hungry for all kinds of high-caloric food.
If you reduce excessive drinking, then you also may reduce all kinds of other weight-gain.
Much to the chagrin of midnight kebab-cart runners everywhere.
Fat Kills, So Don’t Get Fat:
And of course as we know Obesity itself is related to many health problems,
These are chalked-up to chronic excess-inflammation, because body-fat tends to stick around so long and is so hard to get rid of.
Good thing the study-results also showed participants lost weight!
Better Sleep Is Not Just Better Health, It’s Better Social Health, Too:
A very high percentage of Dry Januarians also experienced Better Sleep.
One of the implications of that is Reduced-Anxiety and Social-Isolation. As we found out in previous posts.
And the less you appear sleep-deprived to people, the less they instinctively reject you.
That will only reduce potential social-anxiety even further.
Silly New Year’s Resolutions May Actually Have Great Effects!:
So remember, even though something like Dry January may sound like a temporary stunt or a bit of a silly New Year’s Resolution,
The preliminary study results show that it really can influence variables in your health that have far-reaching implications.
Often times, it’s hard to remind yourself on a regular basis of how much certain factors are interrelated,
Because we all want to just get on with living our lives.
But one simple exercise of people dedicating themselves to Change even for 1 month,
Gets them to re-examine their relationship with a regular input in their lives,
And that one silly thing can result in Real change for people that lasts.
So even if you are little little bit of a drinker, don’t write off something as silly out-of-hand. Maybe give Dry January a shot and see if it gets you thinking differently too…
Photo Credits: “Alone in the desert”, by Carles Pallé
• Source: U. Sussex
• More Coverage: AlcoholChangeUK
• Source Studies: HealthPsychol. – Voluntary temporary abstinence from alcohol during “Dry January” and subsequent alcohol use | EUJ.Pub.Health – The growth of ‘Dry January’: promoting participation and the benefits of participation