Anyone who’s given up the booze for January may be feeling pretty pleased with themselves as they near the end of Week One.
But top doctors have some bad news - going cold turkey might not be that good for you after all. GP Dr Kailash Chand, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, says there are many benefits to giving up alcohol for a month.
But but unless you permanently cut down, he says ‘don’t bother.’ He said: “These annual periods of abstinence are well and good but if you stop drinking in January just to go mad in February, there really is no point.
“People need to realise that anything more than one drink a night is harmful. Anything more than moderation is not good for you. A dry month has lots of health benefits if it results in a change in your drinking habits year-round. If not, don’t bother.”
Dr Chand did say giving up the booze for a month could be just the tonic for your finances, weight loss, sleep pattern and sexual performance.
Dr Kieran Moriarty, a consultant gastroenterologist at the Royal Bolton Hospital, was more optimistic about the benefits of giving up booze in January. He said: “The most important thing is that it makes people look at the way they drink.
“A lot of people will have binged over the Christmas and the New Year break. A dry Janauary is a good way to reflect on your overall alcohol consumption and think about how you might want to reduce in the New Year.
“Any spell when you’re not drinking will give your body time to recover - particularly if you’ve been drinking heavily for four weeks.”
The NHS currently recommends up to 3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 for women - but this under review. Dr Moriarty said: "The current limits will almost definitely be scaled down once they've been reviewed."
Dr Moriarty says periods of heavy drinking can lead to abnormalities and extra fat in the liver. If you stop drinking, even for a short period, that fat will disappear.
But like Dr Chand, Dr Moriarty said having a dry January will only benefit your health in the long term if you reduce your overall alcohol consumption.
He added: “It’s a bit similar to giving up something for lent. There’s no point giving it up for weeks and saving all your money for a binge at the end of it all. That really is counter-productive and quite harmful for the body.
“People need to be drinking within the sensible limits - nothing more than 3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 for women.”