Trust Me, I’m a Doctor: Volunteers stop drinking for a month
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Dr Michael Mosley is always interested in scientific research and finding out the best ways to improve overall health – inside and out. In a previous study, he joined forces with Professor Rajiv Jalan to see find out what happens when alcohol is not consumed for a month. Alongside discussing the benefits, the Fast 800 creator discussed how alcohol can impact someone’s weight and what to do should they want to shed a few pounds this autumn.
Alcohol is engrained into the British culture; people drink for confidence, relaxation or simply because it’s socially expected.
There’s a stigma attached with turning down a drink when surrounded by friends and family.
However, alcohol may be the reason for unwanted weight gain and even chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
It has previously been noted that when alcohol intake is reduced, weight falls off, but how does alcohol make you fat?
Alcohol is high in calories and carbs
Alcohol is not the sole reason for weight gain, but the sugar, carbohydrates and calories that come with it can contribute.
One drink can add 200 calories of energy to your day, plus the food choices made on top of that.
Dr Michael says: “As alcohol is high in calories, with little nutritional value, we recommend you avoid it completely on fasting days.
“Instead, opt for water, tea or one of our spritzer drinks, refreshingly feeling like you’re getting a little extra.”
Excessive alcohol can lead to poor food choices
Following a night of drinking, many experience disinhibition – doing something on a whim without thinking of the outcome.
The desire for food occurs because there are two hormone levels which increase following alcohol consumption; leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin reduces hunger while ghrelin increases it.
When alcohol is drank, leptin levels are obstructed, while ghrelin levels are elevated, resulting in your appetite increasing.
These levels remain imbalanced the following day, hence excessive eating when hungover.
Dr Michael added: “In addition, alcohol triggers the release of the chemical galanin.
“This, in turn, prompts the brain to crave more alcohol and also fat.
“It’s not by chance you find yourself reaching for greasy, salty food, as opposed to a fresh salad, after an evening of drinking.”
Alcohol can disrupt sleep
REM sleep is the stage in which you process emotions and memories, impacting your mood heavily.
Alcohol can disrupt REM sleep which can in turn, lead to anxiety the following day.
For many, alcohol is a coping mechanism to reduce feelings of anxiety, however, science tells us it actually causes a lot more harm than good.
“You can get caught in a vicious cycle where you drink because you are anxious, stressed or unhappy, and then the alcohol makes it worse,” Dr Michael said. “It’s really important to cut down if you can.”
Alcohol can make you fat
Researchers from King’s College, London, found that on average, those that are sleep deprived consume an additional 385 calories per day.
Further, the feelings of anxiety and depression are known to drive the need for emotional eating.
When Dr Michael and Professor Rajiv Jalan began an experiment to see whose health improved the most – those drinking small units of alcohol regularly versus excessive drinkers, the results were interesting.
A clip from the BBC documentary revealed: “In just four weeks, all our volunteers, even the light drinkers, saw a significant improvement in their health,” Dr Michael said.
One volunteer explained: “I was just really aware of how good I felt in that month where I wasn’t drinking.”
“I feel revitalised, I’m still losing weight and I’m just loving the way that I feel,” another added.
A third comments: “Definitely made my sleep better.”
Professor Rajiv remarked: “If this was a drug – giving up alcohol for a month was a drug – this drug would be worth billions of dollars.”
Alcoholism is a serious condition and if you are concerned about your own health, it’s important to discuss with your GP.
Looking to switch an alcoholic drink or two? The Fast 800 has the perfect mocktail to spruce up festive drinks.
Serves 1, calories per serving 41, prep time five minutes.
Half an orange
One pomegranate, seeds only
250ml sparkling water
1. Squeeze a bit of juice from the orange half into a tall festive glass of ice.
2. Slice orange into slices and add the slices to the glass along with the sparkling water.
3. Add the pomegranate seeds to your mocktail.
4. Fill with ice and enjoy!
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