What happens when you quit drinking? The health benefits of dropping ‘the bottle’

You may be intrigued by a recent study on the effects of leaving "the bottle" behind for 30 days On average, liver fat fell by 15% Blood glucose levels dropped by 16% Subjects lost an average of 1.5 kilograms each Participants rated their sleep higher by almost 10% The only negative was that participants reported less social contact

If you've ever wondered what would happen if you quit drinking alcohol, you may be intrigued by a recent study on the effects of leaving “the bottle” behind.

The staff of science magazine New Scientist ran a small experiment - giving up all liquor for a month - and teamed up with Rajiv Jalan at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School (UCLMS) to investigate the results.

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Reduced liver fat, lower cholesterol and weight loss were just a few of the benefits they enjoyed:

  • Liver fat fell on average by 15 percent, and by almost 20 percent for some. Jalan told New Scientist this result was especially promising since fat accumulation on the liver is a known prelude to liver damage and can cause the inflammation that results in liver disease.
  • Blood glucose levels of those abstaining dropped by 16 percent on average. "I was staggered," said Kevin Moore, a consultant in liver health services at UCLMS. "I don't think anyone has ever observed that before." The drop could mean that the study participants' bodies had become more sensitive to insulin, which is a sign of improved blood sugar control.

  • The subjects lost weight - an average of 1.5 kilograms each over 30 days.
  • Total blood cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease, dropped by almost 5 percent.
  • Ratings of sleep quality went up. Participants rated their sleep higher by almost 10 percent on a scale from 1 to 5.

The only negative −participants reported less social contact.

The experiment gives didn’t give any indication of how long the improvements persist.

“Whether it’s 15 days or six months, we don’t know,” Jalan told New Scientist.

"What you have is a pretty average group of British people who would not consider themselves heavy drinkers, yet stopping drinking for a month alters liver fat, cholesterol and blood sugar, and helps them lose weight," Moore told the health publication. "If someone had a health product that did all that in one month, they would be raking it in."

More anecdotal advice about what happens when you quit drinking comes from Kevin Donahue, the senior managing editor of Men's Health.

Donahue abstained ("mostly") from alcohol for a month in 2014. Though he's more likely to write pieces like "The Best Beer to Pair With Bacon," he concluded the episode with an article titled, "Why You Should Give Up Drinking for 30 Days."
He noted that he got much better sleep when he didn't drink. "Alcohol, even a comparatively small amount, messes with my sleep. It tends to wake me in the early morning (between 2 and 4 a.m.) and I don't sleep deeply again till just before dawn. It doesn't seem like much of a disruption, but once I was aware of it, I could feel it in the morning."

He also concluded that not drinking kept him sharp later at night and brought him closer to his wife, who joined him in the experiment on weeknights.

For those wanting to experiment with 30 days of not drinking themselves, Donahue offers the following advice:

  • Stay active.
  • Don't skip social functions to avoid alcohol. That kind of isolation isn't going to help.
  • Reward the behavior you are adopting, regardless of the outcome.

Lastly, Donahue notes that if you're trying to give up alcohol, even for a short period of time, simply believe you can do it.