Thinking of giving up booze for the month after a hedonistic holiday season? Well, you might be an alcoholic making a big mistake, writes Tom Sykes at the Telegraph. As a recovering alcoholic, Sykes should know. "I managed several sober Januaries, and they became an important weapon in my armory of denial," he writes. A real alcoholic, after all, couldn't make it, he reasoned. But the truth is the ritual appeals deeply "to the classic all-or-nothing, getting-away-with-it mentality of the addict," while "normals" have no use for it. He advises instead trying to have just one drink a night—if stopping after one is difficult, you'll know you have a problem.
But if you actually are a "normal," it turns out there might be some merit in the month-long detox. The staff at the New Scientist ran a small-scale test on themselves, and got some pretty astonishing results. Ten staffers laid off booze for five weeks, and saw their liver fat, blood glucose, and blood cholesterol levels all fall significantly—reducing their risk for liver disease, diabetes, and heart disease—while four staffers who kept drinking saw no changes. But it was a fairly limited experiment, offering no clue how long those effects will last. Heather Timmons at Quartz argues that such "detoxes" are "useless" in the long-term, since the body regularly clears out toxins all on its own. So instead, she recommends taking two or three consecutive days off from drinking each week, since it takes the liver a full day to recover from heavy drinking—plus, over the course of a year, that ensures as many as 150 alcohol-free days.