Abstaining from alcohol for just one month can improve a number of health measurements, including lowering blood pressure and decreasing factors for cancer risk and diabetes, according to a recent study by researchers in the U.K.
The study followed men and women over a period of one month, described as moderate drinkers, but who consumed about 20 pints of average beer per week, more than two and a half times the U.K. drinking guidelines, which is about six pints per week.
In the U.S., moderate drinking is defined as one alcohol drink per day for women and two for men.
The researchers divided the men and women into two groups, 94 people in the abstinence group and 47 participants in the control group, who continued their alcohol consumption as usual.
At the one month follow up, the researchers noticed significant improvements in the abstinence group. Among these were reduced levels of certain proteins that increase when there is stress on the body — such as increased blood flow and oxygen delivery or which are at elevated levels with cancerous tumor growth.
Insulin resistance improved, the authors noted, in that participants were able to produce insulin to match glucose levels at a better rate than the control group who continued to drink.
The abstinence group also had lower levels of markers for cardiovascular risk factors, including decreased cholesterol. Liver function tests also improved, the authors wrote.
There was also a small drop in weight, about 1.6 kilograms, about three and a half pounds.
They also found that when following up with the abstinence group after the trial period, at between six and eight months, over 80 percent of the experimental group said they had reduced their drinking habits.
“This study is the first to comprehensively assess the effects of short-term abstinence from alcohol in a population of ‘healthy’ individuals, who are representative of the 25% of the wider population who drink alcohol above national guidelines,” the authors wrote in their conclusion.
The study was published on May 5 in the British Medical Journal.