Alcohol and diet soda may be a bad mix
February 5th, 2013
04:04 PM ET

Alcohol and diet soda may be a bad mix

Saving calories at the bar may not be a good thing.

Researchers gave college students vodka drinks with regular soda and with diet soda, and the diet soda group got more intoxicated, faster - about 20%  more intoxicated than those who mixed regular soda with liquor, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Sugar in your mixed drink actually slows down the effects of alcohol, researchers say.

The study
Though it was a very small study, only eight women and eight men, the findings closely match previous research linking diet drinks and increased alcohol levels in the body.

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 10 minutes.

The results
Using breath tests to measure alcohol levels, researchers found that students who drank vodka and regular soda registered just under the legal limit. But drinking the vodka-diet soda mixture tipped students over the limit.

"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, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Science at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky.

The students also completed computer tasks testing their reaction times, mimicking what they might face while driving. Those drinking the diet soda were slower to react.

But the students said they felt the same no matter what they drank, even though tests showed the diet drinkers were about one-fifth more intoxicated. To put that in perspective, you'd have to add almost a whole other shot of vodka to the sugar-sweetened drink to equal the potency of the diet drink mixture.

"The subjects were unaware of this difference, as measured by various subjective ratings including feelings of intoxication, impairment, and willingness to drive," says Marczinski.

Another study measuring alcohol levels in people leaving bars or night clubs also found that diet soda/liquor drinkers were more impaired.

"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.

People often mix diet soda and alcohol to save on calories. And women make this choice more than men. But Marczinski says it's not worth the trade-offs."It's much more harmful to the brain, to your liver, if you have a higher blood alcohol level. A few extra calories is not going to make that much difference (in your weight)," says Marczinski. In her study, students drinking the diet mixture only reduced their calorie count by 130.

What's the buzz?
Why do people get more intoxicated when they go for diet instead of regular soda with their booze? It has to do with digestion. The diet soda mixture passes quickly through the stomach, putting alcohol into our bloodstream faster.

That's not the case with regular soda and liquor. Experts say the stomach treats this combination as if it's food. Digestion slows everything down, delaying the release of alcohol into our system, and spreading it out over a longer period of time.

Take home
"I think the takeaway from this study is, don't trust your judgment about intoxication levels, you may be off," says Marczinski. "And many times people think they're safe to drive and they are in fact not."

soundoff (242 Responses)
  1. Social Media Marketing Business

    Good blog you have got here.. It’s difficult to find high quality writing like yours these days. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 11, 2021 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Internet Marketing Services Near Me


    May 11, 2021 at 16:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. the truck shop orange county

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It is the little changes which will make the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!


    May 11, 2021 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Major Porritt

    This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though


    May 11, 2021 at 23:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. sunroof repair near me

    May I simply just say what a relief to discover a person that truly knows what they're discussing on the net. You actually realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people should check this out and understand this side of the story. I was surprised you are not more popular because you surely possess the gift.


    May 11, 2021 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. truck painting near me


    May 12, 2021 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. collision experts fargo


    May 12, 2021 at 08:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. tv repair orange county ca


    May 12, 2021 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. window repair orange county


    May 12, 2021 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Repair Cost On Mercedes Sprinter Van

    Excellent post. I certainly appreciate this site. Stick with it!


    May 12, 2021 at 13:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Generator Los Angeles


    May 12, 2021 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. ibs collision center


    May 12, 2021 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. rv shower upgrade

    I love it when people come together and share thoughts. Great blog, stick with it!


    May 12, 2021 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. rv media center

    Very nice post. I absolutely love this site. Continue the good work!


    May 12, 2021 at 19:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. rv restoration companies

    Very good article. I will be going through a few of these issues as well..


    May 12, 2021 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. box truck repair panels


    May 12, 2021 at 23:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. box truck floor repair


    May 13, 2021 at 01:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. gallery xnxx

    Very good info. Lucky me I found your blog by accident (stumbleupon). I've book-marked it for later!


    May 13, 2021 at 01:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. oc truck shop

    I'm excited to find this great site. I need to to thank you for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and I have you saved as a favorite to check out new information in your website.


    May 13, 2021 at 04:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. rv repair services


    May 13, 2021 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. rv interior furniture

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday. It's always exciting to read content from other authors and use something from other websites.


    May 13, 2021 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. orange truck shop


    May 13, 2021 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Generator Riverside


    May 13, 2021 at 13:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV AC Near Me


    May 13, 2021 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Upgrades Riverside


    May 13, 2021 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5

Leave a Reply to Morgan Mclauglin


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.