Giving up alcohol for just one month can boost health and help to combat high blood pressure, according to a new study.
While the benefits of heavy drinkers giving up booze are well known, researchers say even those who drink within the Government's recommended 14 units a week can see notable changes in key areas of their health such as blood pressure, liver health and cancer risk.
Menopausal women in the trial also reported that symptoms such as hot flushes became more manageable when they abstained, according to the Daily Mail.
The study was overseen by Kevin Moore, professor of hepatology and head of the alcohol liaison service at the Royal Free Hospital in London, and the findings feature in a new Channel 4 series, Live Well For Longer, to be broadcast this week in the UK.
It follows three groups of women – so-called 'light' drinkers consuming up to 14 units a week (the official recommended limit), those who drank about 28 units a week (three bottles of wine a week), and heavy drinkers, consuming about 36 units a week (four bottles of wine).
At the start and end of the experiment, the women underwent tests for blood pressure, liver stiffness (a measure of liver damage) and cytokines – proteins that may be involved in the growth of cancer. The results after a month, even for 'light' drinkers, were astonishing. Among the women who drank up to 14 units a week, liver stiffness reduced by on average 14 per cent, their level of cytokines by 14 per cent and systolic blood pressure – the top number that is the most important of the two readings – by 6mmHg, enough to take a reading out of the 'high' danger zone of 140 into safer territory.
Of the women who drank up to 28 units a week, their cytokines reduced by 36 per cent and their blood pressure fell by 9mmHg, yet their liver stiffness didn't change.
And among the heavy drinkers, consuming about 36 units a week or more, cytokines reduced by 40 per cent, liver stiffness reduced by 15 per cent and blood pressure fell by 10mmHg on average.
One woman's systolic blood pressure fell from 132 to 113 – taking her out of the raised zone into a very healthy reading – and having the same effect as medication prescribed for high blood pressure. Prof Moore said: "There are clearly major physiological benefits to stopping drinking alcohol."
Not only that, but the volunteers looked healthier, slept better, felt less agitated, had lost weight and were more able to concentrate, presenter Kate Quilton told The Mail on Sunday.
Blood pressure features heavily in episode two of the series, with volunteers discovering that oats could be the secret to slashing their high readings.
This study, led by Professor Adrian Brady from Glasgow University, reveals that two bowls of porridge a day lowers blood pressure more effectively than drinking trendy beetroot juice or coconut water – both touted as remedies for the chronic condition.
Singing could also help, the show finds; another study following the stress levels of choir members reveals that belting out tunes can dramatically lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
One woman's stress levels fell by an incredible 77 per cent after an hour and a half of singing.
And the definitive cure for lower back pain – the curse of a third of Britons? Yoga. Episode three of the show finds that the ancient practice pips both osteopathy and physiotherapy to the post in terms of results.