Born in the UK in the early 2010s, the ‘January Challenge’ – or Dry January – is growing in popularity. During its first French edition in 2020, more than one in ten French people took up the challenge, according to an OpinionWay study. This year is a bit special because the Covid-19 epidemic has already generated a number of restrictions on our lifestyles. But after the excesses of the end of the year holidays, a month without alcohol gives the body a saving respite and allows it to recover better, explains doctor Cyril Gauthier, nutritionist, member of the Scientific College of the Ramsay Health Foundation.
Zero alcohol for a month, is that a good idea?
DOCTOR CYRIL GAUTHIER. This is a great idea because our bodies are not originally designed to metabolize alcohol. Drinking it provides a lot of liquid calories that are not used as a functional source of energy. These are quickly absorbed, then transported to the liver which transforms them into toxic substances and lipids, which promotes the accumulation of hepatic fat. Avoiding alcohol for a few weeks therefore makes it possible to reduce an overload of the liver with triglycerides, and therefore to reduce steatosis, fatty liver disease. The risk of type 2 diabetes is also reduced. Suspending consumption is also accompanied by a feeling of general well-being because alcohol also slows down the absorption of group B vitamins and zinc, disrupts sleep, promotes gastroesophageal reflux and reduces the ability to concentration. A one-month break also offers the opportunity to assess your relationship to alcohol and take a step back from your consumption, which we often tend to minimize.
Does joining the January Challenge also help you lose weight?
Yes, since alcohol has a high caloric density. One gram of alcohol delivers 7.1 kcal, which is much more than one gram of sugar (4 kcal). In terms of energy, one glass of alcohol (15 cl of wine for example) is equivalent to two glasses of soda. A person who drinks one to two glasses of wine at noon and in the evening swallows without realizing it almost the equivalent of an additional meal per day in terms of calories! But these do not satiate. They do not work the stomach, do not require chewing and do not provide any useful nutrients. If we do not eat more while stopping alcohol, weight loss can be achieved.
What other benefits can you expect?
There is never safe consumption. Beyond one glass per day, alcohol promotes the appearance of many cancers, in particular digestive cancers (stomach, intestine, etc.), of the oral cavity and of the pharynx, as well as breast cancer in women. By stimulating the development of visceral fat, it also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Dry January can therefore only be beneficial, if only to break with its daily rituals because we often drink more out of habit or to release an emotional charge than out of real taste pleasure.
VIDEO. How to go a month without drinking alcohol