Dry January? I'm totally on top of this teetotalism

Date:16-01-2014 08:58:18 read:4

Dry January? I'm totally on top of this teetotalism

Jake Wallis Simons proves that a dry January is possible even for a journalist and finds that the health benefits are well worth the effort

Kick the habit: once the month is over, celebrate in moderation  Photo: Alamy

Frankly, I can’t see what all the fuss is about. It has been 15 days now, and I’m not craving the booze in the slightest. Come to think of it, I didn’t even know how many days it had been. I had to look at the calendar to work it out.

Nope, I don’t come home from work and think, “Christ, I could just do with an ice cold – gah!”. I don’t sit late into the night sipping a small glass of orange juice and gazing longingly at my whisky cabinet. I don’t accelerate as I walk past the pub in order to avoid temptation. And I most certainly am not in denial.

“The good news is that most people successfully complete their dry January,” says Emily Robinson, director of campaigns at Alcohol Concern, the organisation behind the scheme.

“Last year around 87 per cent of people taking part who we surveyed told us they’d managed to stick to the challenge. Lots of people find social occasions really tricky, perhaps because they can’t remember the last time they socialised without booze. We want people to carry on going out but just to swap their usual for something soft.”

Reader, if you, like me, have harnessed your fate to a boozeless January – at least until Burns Night – and have stayed on the wagon thus far, then congratulations. You’ve made it half way, more or less. Celebrate with a ginger beer. Or a ginless tonic water. Or another Virgin Mary.

Let’s face it, the midway point is always the hardest. So here’s a bit of encouragement. Thanks to new research carried out by Professor Rajiv Jalan at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London (UCL), in conjunction with the New Scientist magazine, we now know far more about the health benefits of a dry month. And they are remarkable.

“I was very surprised that even in individuals drinking within safe limits, substantial improvements were possible within a one-month abstention,” says Prof Jalan. “The observed effects on weight, cholesterol and glucose were staggering.”

He studied 14 “healthy and normal” journalists (stop sniggering at the back) who were working full time and drinking alcohol socially. Ten of them gave up drinking and four continued to drink.

The dry cohort showed “a statistically and clinically significant improvement” in terms of their levels of liver fat (which reduced by a staggering 15-20 per cent), blood glucose, and cholesterol. On average, they also lost a kilogram of weight.

Other benefits included better sleep at night, improved wakefulness and concentration during the day, and better work performance.

So, my brothers and sisters in teetotalism, do not fail; do not falter. And if you are ferocious in battle, remember to be magnanimous in victory.

Not that going dry is difficult, of course.

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