February 12, 2013

Diet Booze And Soda Could Be A Dangerous Mix

Trying to save calories at the bar could be dangerous according to a small study published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Some folks drink beer, some drink wine, and others drink hard liquor. Some drink it straight up, and others mix it with soda or juice, and some simply don’t drink at all.

This info is specifically for those who drink mixed drinks with liquor and soda, but if you fall into any of the other categories, feel free to read on and inform your friends.

A small (very small, eight men and eight women) study was done by the Department of Psychological Science at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky linking diet soda and liquor to danger for those who drink.

According to The Chart on, scientists at Northern Kentucky University “asked students who were social drinkers to come to their lab on separate days to test the effects of alcohol. During one visit, the students drank vodka with diet soda and at another session they mixed the vodka with a sugar-sweetened soft drink. Each beverage had the potency of about four mixed drinks, a dose that has been shown to raise blood alcohol levels to about the legal driving limit. At each visit, the students downed their drink in about ten minutes.”

Small as the study may have been, it lines up with previous research of diet drinks and increased alcohol levels in the body.

The researchers used breath tests to measure the alcohol levels of the subjects. They found that students who drank the vodka and regular soda mixture registered just below the legal limit, but the subjects drinking the vodka-diet soda mixture were slightly over the limit.

The subjects were also asked to complete computer tasks measuring their reaction times. Those drinking the diet soda mixture had slower reaction times further illustrating the point that the blood alcohol level was higher than their sugar soda-drinking counterparts.

“What you choose to mix your alcohol with could possibly be the difference between breaking or not breaking the law,” says study author Cecile Marczinski.

Their peers agree, “Marczinski’s findings are very consistent with what we’ve found in the field in a natural drinking environment. When the mixer is diet soda, the bar patrons tend to have somewhat higher intoxication levels than when they consume regular soda,” says Dennis Thombs, professor and chair of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, School of Public Health at the University of North Texas in Fort Worth.

Lots of weight conscious drinkers try and save a few calories by mixing their drinks with diet soda, but the risks don’t outweigh the rewards. The participants of the study saved a mere 130 calories; that’s comparable to a handful of potato chips.

Higher blood alcohol levels are not only dangerous for the commute home, but for the liver and brain. The body breaks the drinks down differently and those using diet drinks as the mixer are digested much faster allowing more alcohol into the blood system. Good judgment says you shouldn’t be drinking and driving, but we’ve all turned on the evening news and seen bad judgment.

Be careful, and be informed.

Image Credit: LI CHAOSHU / Shutterstock

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