A new study released in the journal Alcoholism reveals that mixing alcohol with diet soda might make the concoction more potent than using a full-calorie beverage to cut the booze.
Researchers found that mixing alcohol and sugar-free soft drinks resulted in higher breath alcohol content than mixing alcohol with regular soft drinks.
“The results were surprising,” assistant professor in the department of psychological science at Northern Kentucky University Cecile A. Marczinski said.
The study involved observing subjects after being served either vodka added to a diet beverage, vodka added to a regular drink or a regular soft drink with a vodka scent added to it so that the study participants would think it was an alcoholic beverage.
The subjects who were given the vodka and diet soft drink cocktail had a higher breath alcohol content and the highest level of behavioral impairment compared to all the other participants.
“We are talking about significant differences here,” Marczinski said. “Participants who drank diet soda with vodka had blood alcohol contents as high as 18 percent more than when sugar-containing mixers were used.”
The belief is that drinks containing sugar act like eating a meal does and therefore, delays alcohol absorption in the bloodstream because it delays stomach emptying.
“This is why the southern European countries have lower rates of alcoholism despite their increased alcohol intake,” said Petros Levounis who was not involved in the study and is the director of the Addiction Institute of New York. “They always drink while eating.”
Diet beverages contain no sugar and do not trigger the same response, allowing alcohol to reach the bloodstream quicker.
“The choice of what you mix your alcohol with can make a difference,” Marczinski said. “In the long run, it’s more harmful for your body to be exposed to a higher alcohol concentration than a few extra calories.”