A classic episode of The Simpsons finds Homer challenged by Marge to give up drinking for 30 days. At the end of the month, he’s lost weight, saved money and appears to be healthier overall.
Ironically, Homer decides it's time to celebrate; he races to the bar so he can knock back a few beers with his buddies. Once he gets there, however, the alcohol seems to have lost its luster. Instead of getting drunk, he decides to go for a bike ride with his wife.
Turns out this episode of Homer's cartoon life isn't completely rooted in fiction. Believe it or not, the same benefits are very much found in real life.
Putting the Bottle Down
A new study from across the pond at University College London found that people who gave up drinking for just four weeks saw improvements in their cholesterol levels, blood pressure and overall liver function.
Researchers monitored 102 healthy men and women in their 40s, all of whom were taking part in a “Dry January” campaign. The participants had previously consumed an average of four drinks or more per day. At the end of the month, the improvements were pretty astounding and included the following:
- Insulin resistance - a measurement of diabetes risk - dropped by 28 percent
- “Liver stiffness” - an indication of damage and scarring - was reduced by 12.5
- Longer, better quality periods of sleep were noted
- Some even reported a weight loss of up to six pounds
“We think we will find [the participants] drink less going forward,” said professor Kevin Moore, a co-author of the study. "If you took a drug that reduced blood pressure and improved cholesterol and insulin resistance, it would be a blockbuster drug that would be worth billions."
More Undeniable Benefits
A separate research project published last January in New Scientist also found that quitting drinking for a month improves liver function.
Participants saw their liver fat reduced by an average of 15 percent and their glucose levels drop by an average of 16 percent.
The researchers noted that many people who participate in Dry January might slip up and consume alcohol on one or two days, but that hardly means that it was a wasted month from a medical standpoint.
“Even if [they] didn’t successfully complete the 31 days, it generally led to a significant decrease across all the measures of alcohol intake,” noted Dr. Kevin Fenton of Public Health England.
Planning for Your Own Sobriety
If you’re thinking about taking a break from drinking or stopping entirely, find other people who either wish to do the same or already did. Having a support group during the early stages of this new lifestyle, particularly when alcohol cravings may run high, can be a huge benefit.
You should also set aside time to exercise each day, particularly in the evenings when you would normally head to the bar. This will produce endorphins that boost your mood far more than alcohol ever could, and all for the price of free.
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