Health

Detoxing in January is futile, says liver charity

  • 1 January 2012
  • From the section Health
Woman drinking a glass of water
Taking a regular weekly break from alcohol is preferable to a short, sharp detox

Giving up alcohol or going on a detox for one month is pointless, especially after the excesses of the festive season, says a liver charity.

Instead, the British Liver Trust says drinkers should make a decision to stay off alcohol for a few days every week throughout the whole year.

Experts agree that a short period of complete abstinence will not improve liver health.

A longer-term attitude to alcohol is more desirable, the charity said.

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said that people tend to believe the hype about rejuvenating their liver by detoxing in January.

"People think they're virtuous with their health by embarking on a liver detox each January with the belief that they are cleansing their liver of excess following the festive break.

"A one-hit, one-month attempt to achieve long-term liver health is not the way to approach it.

"You're better off making a resolution to take a few days off alcohol a week throughout the entire year than remaining abstinent for January only."

The thinking behind this approach is that total alcohol intake per person is kept down and the liver is given time to recover each week.

Providing the liver has no lasting damage, it can repair itself very quickly, taking as little as 24 hours to go back to normal.

Dr Mark Wright, consultant hepatologist at Southampton General Hospital, said detoxing created its own problems.

"Detoxing for just a month in January is medically futile. It can lead to a false sense of security and feeds the idea that you can abuse your liver as much as you like and then sort everything else with a quick fix.

"It makes about as much sense as maxing out your credit cards and overdraft all year, then thinking you can fix it by just eating toast in January. The figures just don't stack up," said Dr Wright.

The British Liver Trust is launching a campaign called 'Love Your Liver' to encourage people to maintain a healthy liver.

As part of the campaign, it also advises eating well and exercising regularly.

"If you are overweight you increase your risk of liver disease by three times if you drink alcohol too.

"Cutting down on your daily food indulgences and not overloading on sugary drinks will all help to optimise your liver function," the Trust's website says.

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