Mixing Booze With Diet Soda Gets You Drunker, Faster

Fallen Drunk Girl

Photo: Flickr/_tony_b

Mixing your liquor with diet soda instead of the full calorie stuff gets you drunker, new research suggests. It could be what puts you over the legal limit to drive — even if you have the same number of drinks as the drinkers who used sugar-sweetened mixers.The new study, was published online back in December in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

The study was tiny — it only consisted of 16 students with an average age of 23. The students were brought into the lab three separate times, and given either vodka with Squirt, vodka with diet Squirt or another “placebo” beverage (without alcohol).

The booze was portioned out according to body weight, 0.03 ounces per pound. For the average person, that equals about three or four drinks worth.

After the drinking they were quizzed on how they felt, if they felt they could drive, and their reaction times were tested. 

They saw that the diet soda drinkers had significantly higher blood alcohol levels. They reached an average of 0.091 BA, while the sugar soda drinkers reached 0.077 BAC after four drinks.

booze chart

Photo: Marczinski, et. al, Alc: Clin & Exp Res., 2012

The diet drinkers didn’t feel any drunker than the other participants, but they did worse at the reaction time test.The findings line up with a study performed in the ‘real world,’ study researcher Cecile Marczinski, of Northern Kentucky University, said in a statement: “Researchers found that, one, individuals who reported consuming alcohol with diet beverages had the highest BrACs, as compared to all other bar patrons, and two, that women tended to be more frequent consumers of diet mixers with their alcohol.”

It makes sense, though, because the body takes time to digest that calories in sugary soft drinks, but lets the diet drinks pass right through. This means the alcohol gets to your intestine and into your bloodstream quicker, and can build up to higher levels.

“If you haven’t eaten before you start drinking, your blood sugar will go down. And then if you use diet mixers, you’re at a much higher risk of being intoxicated,” said Samantha Heller, a clinical nutritionist at NYU who didn’t do the study, told US News And World Report. “If you think you’re doing a better thing by going with the diet mixer, you need to know you may be doing yourself a disservice if you’re getting more drink faster.”

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