After the Christmas and New Years partying binge, many people decide to take something of a break from the bottle and give one of their most precious organs a good long rest. While there has been limited scientific evidence concerning a absence from booze, New Scientist staff have discovered that it may indeed be healthy (at least in the short term) to stop drinking for a period of time. The people at New Scientist have teamed up with with Rajiv Jalan at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School (UCLMS) to see what the effects of laying off the booze short term will have for the organ responsible for digesting food, detoxification and hormone balance as well as hundreds of other functions.
Fourteen members of the New Scientific study who consider themselves “normal” drinkers traveled to a hospital in London where they provided information pertinent to their health and the study they were conducting. On top of that they had ultrasounds of their livers, had their blood tested to analyze liver function and overall health. Over the course of five weeks 10 of the participants did not drink at all, while 4 kept drinking as normal. When the test period had ended they returned to the London hospital to repeat the tests they were subjected to at the beginning of the study. Interestingly enough, the 4 people who drank as they usually do showed no differences in testing from the beginning of the study. But the big shocker was what happened to the 10 people who did not drink over the 5 week period.
Liver fat fell by a significant amount on the subjects who did not drink. So much so in fact that it could affect temporary scarring called fibrosis and the more serious scarring known as cirrhosis. The livers tested were deemed to be healthy but even so the fasting from alcohol would indeed help in the prevention of liver damage. Another interesting result was the blood glucose levels of those who did not drink during the study period. There was a drop in glucose by 16% from 5.1 to 4.3 millimoles per litre, something that Mr. Kevin Moore at the liver health services of the UCLMS says has not been observed before. The study also noticed a drop in cholesterol as well from 4.6 to 4.4 mmol/l. The subjects in the study also claimed an improvement in sleep, the only negative finding was a reduction in social contact.
“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,” says Moore. “If someone had a health product that did all that in one month, they would be raking it in.”
Still, that doesn’t mean it is OK to indulge for the other 11 months. “That’s absolutely the wrong message to give out but these results show that even a relatively short period of abstinence impacts on the liver”