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Is Going “Dry” Beneficial to Health?

January 22, 2016 – Every January web sites that cover anything related to alcohol or food or health or none of the above feature stories and recommendations about cutting back on alcohol.  Did everyone get drunk over the holidays?  Gee, what did we miss out on!

Recommendations for a “dry” January or at the very least, cutting back on the old booze two days a week, are just a couple of the articles we’ve seen.  So we were delighted to find a voice of sanity and authority published in the British magazine “Decanter”.  That voice belongs to Michael Apstein, MD.  Dr. Apstein is well known in America’s wine world.  He is a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.  He is also a freelance wine writer, editor and wine judge.

The idea of “giving your liver a rest” by abstaining from alcohol for at least two days a week is well intentioned but there is no study proving that this strategy is efficacious for the liver or that it will reduce alcohol abuse.  In fact, having given up drinking for a couple of days might give an abuser the false idea that guzzling on the other days is OK.  What would be better is for the person who drinks too much to reduce consumption every day.

In discussing “dry January”, Dr. Apstein makes an interesting point.  The liver reacts to whether a person drinks daily or occasionally.  In the case of regular (but moderate) drinkers, the liver makes more enzymes to efficiently handle the alcohol.  So daily drinkers can metabolize more alcohol than those who drink only on weekends because their livers contain more alcohol dehydrogenase.  If both types of drinkers imbibe the same amount, the regular drinker’s blood alcohol level will be lower.  But please don’t interpret this as invitation to binge drink.  We’re talking about moderation here.

Dr. Apstein addresses gender and age, eating while drinking, increased alcohol content in wine, the different effects of various wines and much more.  Whether or not you have nagging questions about your own, or someone else’s alcohol consumption, it is a calm, thoughtful article by someone qualified to write authoritatively about wine and the liver.