Alcohol + Diet Drinks or Energy Drinks

Do Alcohol Mixers Affect Intoxication Levels?

dc-canDoes it make a difference if you drink alcohol with regular or diet sodas? According to a new study, it does. In a study of men and women ages 21-33, those who drank vodka mixed with diet soda had breath alcohol concentrations that were 18% higher after 40 minutes compared to people who drank the same amount of vodka mixed with regular soda.

  • After three to four drinks, people who used diet soda as a mixer had a breath alcohol level that exceeded the legal limit for an adult operating a motor vehicle. People who used regular soda in their drink did not.
  • People who used diet mixers scored worse on a test measuring reaction time than people who used regular mixers. However, both groups reported feeling similar levels of intoxication.

The test findings suggest that diet mixers, although lower in calories, may have insidious effects, according to study researcher Cecile Marczinski, an assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University.

“People think they’re saving some calories by drinking their alcohol with a diet drink, but it’s much more harmful to the body to have a high blood alcohol concentration,” Marczinski said. Regular mixers may slow down the time it takes a person to become intoxicated from drinking, the researchers said.

Alcohol is absorbed by the body when it reaches the small intestine. But the stomach may treat the sugar in regular mixers as if it were food. As a result, the alcohol doesn’t reach the small intestine as quickly. In addition, the artificial sweeteners in diet soda may not delay stomach emptying, so the alcohol travels straight through to the small intestine.

An earlier study found that men who drank vodka mixed with a diet beverage had higher blood alcohol levels than men who drank vodka mixed with a regular beverage. Using an ultrasound, the researchers showed that the regular drink delayed stomach emptying, but the diet drink did not.