People Are Giving Their Livers a Rest During ‘Sober January’

For one month (and probably one month only), the booze goes on the backburner.

Some have called it a sign of a possible drinking problem; while others claim cleansing the liver for a single month each year is a waste of time with no real long-term health benefits.

But for many Boston residents—and people all over the country for that matter—the idea of a “Sober January” is just a one-off attempt at starting the New Year on the right foot and preparing for the many months of partying ahead.

“I needed to do a detox after the holidays, lose weight, and save some money,” said Charity Collier, of South Boston, who has been doing her own version of a “Sober January” for the last three years. “For me, it definitely reminds me of how it does feel better when you don’t drink.”

This year’s battle to stop boozing, which requires sometimes giving up social gatherings and skipping out on late-night bar crawls, has been slightly easier since she’s started 2014 with the flu.

But Collier suspects once she’s on the mend, it will be relatively easy to continue on for the next 31 days without social drinking, or having a glass of wine at home—something she used to do. “Last year after doing ‘Sober January,’ I stopped drinking at home at all. It stems from doing this. I have it, for having people over, but I never just buy wine for myself,” she said. “I felt better waking up in the morning. Not that I would be hung over, but I just wasn’t as tired as I would be if I had a glass of wine once and awhile. I felt cleansed.”

That year, the sober run ended in March, however, as a critical social gathering quickly approached. “I live in Southie, so Saint Patrick’s Day was coming up, so I sort of went back.”

Like Collier, many others have tried the one-month cleanse—there are even Facebook pages dedicated to the trend—and have found the results similarly refreshing. But is it worth the effort?

Writers over at the New Scientist, a UK-based publication, teamed up with researchers from the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School, to examine what the benefits of the booze-less pledge might be.

According to their findings, which required staff from the publication to go through rigorous medical tests before giving up booze for a month, there was significant evidence that “giving up alcohol for a month might actually be good for you, at least in the short term.”

They found that blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels, which present risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, respectively, went down significantly. They also reported that they could sleep better, and wake up easier.

“The only negative was that people reported less social contact,” the report, released on January 1, said.

But Collier isn’t too concerned about that. “I went out and did the same things that I normally do in the past,” she said. “I don’t think that will even be a problem. Following the holidays, after spending so much money and attending so many gatherings, it’s great to sort of clear your head.”

And your liver.