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Are Any of These New Year’s Challenges Right for You?

Are Any of These New Year’s Challenges Right for You?
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From Ron Hoffman, MD, ANH-USA Board President and Medical Director

January is named after Janus, the Roman two-faced god, “the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings.” In classic depictions, Janus simultaneously looks backward and forward.

In the quiet of winter, it’s a great time to reflect and recalibrate. January is a respite from the excesses of the holidays. There’s opportunity here: Diet books are traditionally launched this month, and people make resolutions.

Here are some suggestions for a new year’s project that might disclose unexpected new health horizons for you:

• Dry January: 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the campaign, launched in the U.K. In its first year, 2013, 4,000 people signed up; last year it was 130,000.

This year Dry January takes on particular significance in view of new findings that no amount of alcohol consumption is healthy. Recall when your doctor used to cheerily advise: “Make sure you enjoy a few glasses of Pinot Noir every week to protect your heart!”? While it’s true that alcohol may act as a mild blood thinner, lowering the probability of heart attack somewhat, it hikes blood pressure, contributes to cardiac arrhythmias, and boosts the chance of strokes. And you’d have to guzzle gallons of red wine to obtain the amount of resveratrol said to underlie the “French Paradox”.

In fact, some have proposed that we rethink the inclusion of red wine in the vaunted Mediterranean Diet.

Studies that once suggested moderate drinkers live longer were revealed to have been skewed by the “healthy user bias”; i.e., in large comparisons of drinkers to non-drinkers, teetotalers may have eschewed alcohol because they were too frail or sick to tolerate it, or else quit it after a prior history of alcohol abuse rendered them more likely to die prematurely.

The new-think is that alcohol, even in moderation, hikes risks for many cancers, liver disease, accidents, falls, violent death, suicide, dementia and other fatal outcomes. And as one gets older, one’s tolerance decreases.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m no Carrie Nation, on a crusade to bust up saloons with a hatchet. Admittedly, alcohol performs a vital social function, enabling us to enjoy congenial gatherings with friends and family—a health plus.

On the other hand, a month on the wagon could enable you to assess the impact of drinking on your well-being. You might see unexpected benefits for mood, sleep, energy and productivity.

Alternatively, you might find it hard to kick the booze habit. If so, so much the better—you’ve spotlighted a dependency. When you can’t rein in your drinking, you should seek help.

• Whole 30: This variation on the Paleo diet became popular pre-pandemic as a way of exploring a dietary reset. It started as a challenge: Can you go for 30 days without sugar, grains, legumes, processed foods, vegetable oils, dairy and subsist on meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nuts? The Whole 30 doesn’t even have to be especially low-carb, as you’re entitled to eat carrots, winter squash and potatoes (but no corn) if desired.

My experience: I lost around five pounds, and felt additional clarity, energy, and reduction in nasal congestion, body aches and stiffness. See my review here.

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