It’s not my first choice, but there are plenty of people out there who prefer mixing their alcohol with diet soda. Mixing alcohol with an artificially sweetened soda rather than regular soda, however, could lead to a higher blood alcohol content.
The reason for the elevated blood alcohol content lies with how our bodies process diet sodas. Diet soda passes through our stomach quicker than regular soda. When this happens, the alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream quicker. Regular soda takes longer to break down, which slows the release of alcohol into the blood stream.
Research has shown this phenomenon to be true.
Researchers at Griffith University, in Australia, found that people who mixed alcohol with diet soda showed a blood alcohol content of 0.02 higher than those who mixed alcohol with the conventional sugary carbohydrate-laden drinks. In his study of 16 people, those who mixed their drinks with artificially sweetened showed an average blood alcohol content of 0.065 percent whereas those who mixed their drinks with regular soda showed an average blood alcohol content of 0.045 percent.
“There are implications for people that might go and have one or two drinks and if they’re choosing drinks that have diet mixers, it might put them over the limit,” said Chris Irwin, PhD candidate at Griffith University. “It may make a big difference in their blood alcohol limit and put them at risk of driving under the influence, while if they have a carbohydrate based drink with alcohol they could be under the limit.”
Another study at Northern Kentucky University found that subjects who were given diet soda mixed with an amount of alcohol that would put a person at approximately a 0.08 percent blood alcohol content were slightly over the 0.08 threshold. On the other hand, subjects who were given the same amount of alcohol mixed with regular soda were found to be slightly under the 0.08 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.
So if you’re trying to shed the pounds using diet soda as a mixer for your alcohol, remember that you’re probably getting drunker quicker than if you were drinking regular soda. As Marczinski put it, it may be the difference between making it home and getting arrested for a DUI.