Drinkers should take a month off alcohol to prevent serious illness in later life, an international study has warned.
New British research shows how abstention can heal the liver and lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Patients who gave up for four weeks were also at lower risk of developing cancer and diabetes.
The study is the second at a London hospital to uncover the huge benefits of staying off booze.
“The results were staggering,’’ said Professor Kevin Moore, who was involved in both experiments.
“If you had a drug that did this it would be a multi-billion (dollar) market.
“There was a 40 per cent reduction in liver fat, they lost about three kilograms in weight and their cholesterol levels improved.’’
In the second, larger study, London researchers looked at 102 relatively healthy men and women in their forties taking part in a “dry January’’ campaign.
The women had been drinking an average of 29 units of alcohol a week — the men were typically on 31 units.
All had blood tests and liver scans and answered detailed questionnaires.
Four weeks later, the damage caused to their livers by years of heavy drinking had started to repair itself.
Their “liver stiffness’’ – an indication of disease — had been reduced by 12.5 per cent. Their insulin resistance — a measurement of diabetes risk — had come down by 28 per cent. They had also lost weight, their blood pressure had dropped, and many said their concentration and sleeping levels had improved.
The researchers are due to publish further details, which are expected to show their risk of developing certain cancers was also reduced.
Gautam Mehta, a liver specialist who oversaw the study, said: “I am excited. There are some findings that will be pretty novel. It’s an important study which shows the benefit from a month’s abstinence. What we can’t say is how long those benefits are, how durable those benefits are.’’
South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute Population Health Research Group director Dr Caroline Miller said there needs to be greater awareness of the cumulative dangers of drinking.
“Our research shows 33 per cent of South Australian men and 10 per cent of women are drinking more than the recommended safer level of consumption of no more than two standard drinks a day,” she said.
“Alcohol consumption here is quite normalised and while the dangers of drink driving and violence from excess alcohol consumption are well known, less is discussed about chronic disease risks such as the elevated risks of a range of cancers from long-term excess consumption.
“Taking a month off now and then would do no harm and would be quite healthy.”
SAHMRI's Population Health Group is a part of our Cancer and Heart Health themes.