Space & Innovation

'Dryuary' Not Such a Good Idea?

Abstaining from booze for the month of January may have unintended consequences.

For many social drinkers, taking a break from booze in January is a growing tradition. The idea behind "Dryuary" is to give your liver (and pocketbook) a break, and perhaps re-examine your relationship with alcohol. It's become one of many New Year's resolutions from saving money, losing weight and getting to the gym.

Some countries have adopted Dryuary big time. In Britain, where pub culture has resulted in a doubling of alcohol consumption over the past 40 years, 100,000 people have signed up for a "Dry January" program this year organized by the non-profit group Alcohol Concern.

It's a self-improvement challenge that helps people go sober with text alerts and other support groups for 31 days. But now, at least one expert believes going cold turkey for a month may be a bad idea for some people, especially hardcore alcoholics.

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"It could prove to be quite dangerous for people who are dependent on alcohol," said Ian Hamilton, lecturer in the department of health sciences at York University. "If you stop drinking abruptly, it can induce seizures or cause hallucinations. I don't think there will be many people who will stop drinking abruptly who are dependent. For a small number, they need professional support, advice and medication."

In an article published today in the British Medical Journal, Hamilton throws cold water on one-month abstinence programs like Dry January. Even though participants might feel better during the month, it might be better to spread abstinence over the entire year.

"It would be better to have two alcohol free days each week all year rather than a one month abstinence," Hamilton said.

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This midweek rest would achieve the same goals and help some people control their drinking, he said. Hamilton also says the effort also risks muddying the message on alcohol by confusing people than "all or nothing" program is better than moderation.

But Ian Gilmore, honorary professor at University of Liverpool and president of Alcohol Concern, says that's a load of rubbish.

"Dry January is about giving people an opportunity to realize there is life without alcohol," Gilmore said. "What is wrong with encouraging people to try to give their bodies a rest? It is personal choice. Its not government funded. It's not nanny state. It's not about prohibition."

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Gilmore says that a small follow-up survey of some 60 participants in Dry January showed about 8 percent decided to stop drinking altogether once February rolled around, while about two-thirds of the group had cut down on their drinking. Dry January participants who worked at a local hospital were shown to have improved liver elasticity, insulin levels, lower body-mass index and other positive health measures, he added.

"There is a small risk for alcohol withdrawal syndrome, and some dependent drinkers that need extra help," Gilmore said. "But the overall benefit outweighs the risks."

The ancestor of Chianti wine may have been found in this ancient 105-foot-deep well in the Chiantishire region of Tuscany.

Located in Cetamura, an ancient hilltop near Gaiole in Chianti in the province of Siena, the well has been excavated for the past four years by a team led by Nancy de Grummond, a professor of classics at Florida State, under the supervision of the Archaeological Superintendency of Tuscany and with the help of the Italian archaeological firm of Ichnos.

The archaeologists unearthed a bonanza of artifacts spanning a period of more than 15 centuries, and embracing Etruscan, Roman and medieval civilization in Tuscany.

Artifacts recovered ranged from bronze vessels, votive cups, statuettes, bronze artifats to coins, game pieces and animal bones.

The most precious material, though, might be some 500 waterlogged grape seeds. Found in at least three different levels of the well, which include the Etruscan and Roman levels, the perfectly preserved pips might reveal the ancestors of Chianti an provide key insights into the history of viticulture in a region now famous for its bold reds.

Offerings found in the well, which like other water sources in antiquity, was regarded as sacred, included hundreds of miniature votive cups, some 70 bronze and silver coins, numerous pieces used in games of fortune, and several statuettes. Here is a bronze statuette of a playful calf.

Among the most notable finds are 14 Roman and Etruscan bronze vessels, of different shapes and sizes and with varying decorations, that had been used to extract water.

One of the Etruscan vessels, actually a wine bucket, appears finely tooled and decorated with figurines of the marine monster Skylla.

The archaeologists were able to put into context the grape pips as they unearthed many objects associated with wine drinking and numerous ceramic vessels related to wine storage. The picture shows an Etruscan wine strainer handle with deer head finial.

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