If 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