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Diet Soda + Alcohol = Bad Idea

Make sure that you don’t combine alcohol with a diet sodaIf you’re planning on a cocktail or two, make sure that you don’t combine alcohol with a diet soda. New research has found that the mixture – often the preference of the weight conscious – is likely to boost the effect of the alcohol and increase your breath alcohol content (BrAC), a tip-off that you’ve had too much, whether you know it or not. Researchers at Northern Kentucky University compared the effects of drinking alcohol mixed with an artificially sweetened beverage to one mixed with a “regular” one sweetened with sugar. They recruited 16 students for the study. On different days, the students imbibed alcohol mixed either with a diet drink, a sugar-sweetened beverage or a placebo. Results showed that after drinking alcohol mixed with a diet soda, the volunteers BrAC level was 18 percent higher than when the mixer was a sugar-sweetened drink. The students reported they didn’t notice any difference in the effects of the two drinks. However, the researchers explained that the body processes the two drinks differently: the stomach treats sugary drinks like food and breaks it down more slowly, holding the alcohol in the gastrointestinal tract during the digestion process. That doesn’t happen with artificial sweeteners - the alcohol is delivered more immediately into the bloodstream. The study was published in the December 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

My take? This is one more reason for avoiding diet drinks. Last year a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine found a 43 percent increase in the risk of heart attack and stroke among individuals who habitually consumed a daily diet soda compared to those who don’t drink diet sodas or drink them sparingly. In addition, research at Harvard found that drinking two or more diet sodas daily is associated with a decline in a measure of kidney function in women, and a Danish study showed that the risk of giving birth prematurely increased by 38 percent among women who drank diet soda daily and by 78 percent among those who drank four or more diet sodas per day. To make matters worse, drinking diet soda doesn’t seem to do your weight much good. Over the course of nine years, epidemiologists at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found a 70 percent greater increase in waist circumference among participants in a study of aging who drank diet soda compared to those who didn’t.

Cecile Marczinski , A.L. Stamates, “Artificial Sweeteners Versus Regular Mixers Increase Breath Alcohol Concentrations in Male and Female Social Drinkers” , Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, December 2012 doi: 10.1111/acer.12039

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Reader Comments (10)

Would these results apply equally as well to diet teas? or is it the carbonation in sodas enhance the processing?

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

What about club soda as compared to a sugary drink? Is it the sugar that causes it to process as food, so that anything mixer without sugar would result in higher BAC?

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim

As much as I dislike diet sodas and the frankenfood they represent, I hate epidemiological studies such as the one you referenced by the Journal of General Internal Medicine even more. Say it with me "Correlation is not causation". Would you say in general that obese people might be more likely to drink diet sodas? If so, that would preselect for a population that is already at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. So, we can make no assumptions about the role of diet soda.

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark F.

Never really thought about diet soda having a different effect.

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCL

From now on, I would stop mixing the two even though it taste good. Can I know the remedy if I find myself to have drunk the mixture?

April 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteave

In other words, drinking alcohol mixed with sugar-sweetened soda slows absorption of the alcohol in your intestional tract, compared to alcohol mixed with diet soda or consumed without any mixer. But the test subjects didn't feel any different - they didn't feel more intoxicated - when their BrACwas higher. I'm sorry, I just don't see how this translates to avoiding diet drinks.

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPjphoto

There are more and more bad finding for food Substitutes. If you are going to induldge, then fine, morderation is key for sure. Not sure if most people know this, but ALL carbonated drinks are bad for you... club soda, ect. It creates Free radicals in the body which can attribute to inflammation in the body as well as many other health problems. Just be careful come friday night! =)

April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCandace H

Never thought this would be the case. I tend to do mix diet soda with alchohol but I might reconsider now.

April 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha Handley

Just another reason to limit our beverage consumption. It is better to drink alcohol with mineral water if possible. It does not raise your sugar ingest. Alcohol on the other hand must be taken responsibly.

May 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Thomas
Wow - that is quite a substantial increase in BrAC levels! Definitely avoiding this combo from here on out.
May 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterErica House

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