The Alcohol Free Shop in Newton Heath - the perfect tonic for Dry January

PUBLISHED: 00:05 15 January 2014

John and Chris Risby at the launch of the Alcohol Free Shop with Peter Hook

John and Chris Risby at the launch of the Alcohol Free Shop with Peter Hook


Chris Humphreys explains the simplest way to detox in the new year

The tree’s in the bin, the party frocks are at the cleaners and even you can’t face a another glass of fizz unless it’s the plink, plink variety.

It’s time for resolutions to restore balance to body and mind and get those bathroom scales tipping back in the right direction.

There’s is nothing more likely to get the skin glowing, the brain sparking and the zips fastening again than giving up booze.

You can spend a fortune on the latest youth juice, wrinkle reduction routine or celebrity detox two-day diet but, for real long-term benefits, it’s the drink we need to drop.

Going to the gym is a great move as long as you have the money and the time, and cutting down on fats and sugars can’t do any harm.

But if you still lack energy, crave quality sleep and find the flab won’t shift, you are probably storing up empty calories and the culprit is likely to be alcohol.

Of course, we’re only social drinkers so it’s easy to give it a rest for a while. Isn’t it? How many times have we heard it said: “I could give up if I wanted to.” The trouble is, we don’t want to.

It can be quite a shock totting up a weekly drinking tally, even outside the festive season.

According to Department of Health guidelines, women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week and men no more than 21.

There are about 10 units in a bottle of wine. Two of those in a week and we’re in the “hazardous” drinking zone according to health advisors.

Many people this year are taking up the Dry January initiative that challenges participants to go dry for 31 days for a healthy start to the New Year.

Dry January is organised by the drink education and campaign group Alcohol Concern ( who hope those taking part will help raise funds and awareness of the dangers of too much drink.

Most people know that alcohol can cause liver disease. It is less well known that alcohol also contributes to an increased risk of a range of cancers.

Studies by the Cancer Research charity have found that drinking as little as one unit of alcohol every day can increase our risk of colon, breast and stomach cancer by 10%.

Even the drinks industry, that relies on us all downing more to keep profits up, is now advising us to drink less.

The trade’s charity arm Drinkaware ( has adopted the government’s guidelines on abstaining from alcohol on at least two days a week and on its website now offers advice on giving up alcohol.

TV doctor, Sarah Jarvis, a regular on breakfast TV and radio shows, is a member of the medical advisory group of Drinkaware

She says: ‘While many people can drink within safe limits, I see daily the serious consequences of excess alcohol.’

Dr Sarah recognises the beneficial elements of wine and is a supporter of the unique, Manchester-based business, The Alcohol-Free Shop (

John Risby, who set up the Alcohol-Free Shop in 2006 with his wife Christine, explains that alcohol-free wines contain all the heart-health benefits of ordinary wine with as little as a quarter of the calories.

He points to research indicating that alcohol-free beers can reduce cholesterol and help prevent some cancers. Some are even recommended for sports enthusiasts due to their isotonic properties.

The Alcohol-Free Shop has a new retail outlet on Oldham Road near the city centre with more than 40 wines and around 20 beers and ciders, as well as spirit substitutes that customers can taste-test for free. Customers can also buy online for home delivery.

Most of their drinks do contain a small amount of alcohol up to 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV).

John Risby, says this is equivalent to levels of alcohol found in some fruit juices, cans of shandy sold as pop in newsagents and even some bread products.

The vinegar we put on our chips is about 0.2% alcohol and most cough remedies, including those aimed at children, have alcohol contents much higher.

Launching the Dry January campaign, Emily Robinson, Director of Campaigns at Alcohol Concern said: ‘It’s all too easy to slip into unhealthy habits and find that you’re drinking alcohol at a level which can put you at risk for a range of illnesses such as cancer and stroke.

‘Dry January is aimed at people who do not have an alcohol problem but who might be drinking a bit too much, too often. Having the break allows us all to think about what we’re drinking, break those bad habits and in the long term cut down and improve our health.’

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