A new study shows that using diet mixers can make you drunk faster than non-diet options.
You want to have a few drinks with friends, but you’re watching your calories, so you opt for a diet mixer. It seems like the smart option, right? Wrong -- at least if you’re worried about your blood alcohol level.
A new study shows that if you and a friend drink the same amount of alcohol, but he or she chooses regular soda as a mixer and you go the diet route, you’ll get drunk faster.
The research, to be published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that using diet soda as a mixer can dramatically increase breath-alcohol content (BAC) without increasing your awareness of being impaired. The study compared vodka and a lemon-lime soda with no caffeine with the same vodka mixed with diet lemon-lime soda. (Researchers decided to test a caffeine-free drink, because, although caffeine doesn’t affect breath-detectable levels of alcohol, it does affect whether people think they are intoxicated.) The results showed that the diet cocktail increased BAC by a whopping 18 percent. That’s almost as much as having an additional drink, and it was also the difference between being under the legal limit and being unsafe to drive.
Another interesting finding was that the diet drinkers didn’t feel any more intoxicated than their non-diet counterparts. This is particularly dangerous, because it could lead to more impaired people getting behind the wheel.
The study, performed at Northern Kentucky University, involved 16 young men and women who consider themselves social drinkers. Over the course of three different drinking sessions, they were given either a placebo drink, a diet drink with vodka, or a full-sugar drink with vodka. The dose of vodka was adjusted to each participant’s weight and gender to put them close to the .08 legal limit for drinking which is the equivalent of drinking four beers in an hour. Participants never reached the legal limit when they drank sugared soda with alcohol, but they exceeded the safe limit for driving within 40 minutes if they had the diet cocktail.
Why would diet drinks increase intoxication? It may have something to do with how the stomach reacts to sugary drinks, working to digest the calories. We all know that eating food while drinking significantly reduces blood alcohol level, and now it’s thought that sugary drinks may act similarly, keeping alcohol in the stomach longer and slowing down its release into the bloodstream.
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