Think Twice Before Mixing: Diet Soda Might Make Your Cocktails Stronger!

You might want to rethink your mixer of choice next time you’re at the bar. It turns out that mixing your alcoholic beverages with diet soda can actually make you feel more intoxicated and keep you drunk for a longer period of time than if you were to mix your alcohol with a regular soft drink.

Researchers from the University of North Texas made this fascinating discovery by comparing the breath alcohol concentrations (BrACs) in bar patrons who consumed alcohol with either diet or regular soft drinks. They found that those who reported consuming alcohol with diet beverages had higher BrACs compared to everyone else, and they observed that women were more frequent consumers of diet mixers with their alcoholic drinks.

What does the research say?

In an effort to observe how alcohol is being consumed in the “real world,” Cecile A. Marczinski, an assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University, conducted a study on this phenomenon. Participants in the study were unaware of the difference in their level of intoxication when they drank alcohol mixed with a diet mixer compared to a sugar-sweetened mixer. They even felt the same level of intoxication, impairment, and willingness to drive – but their behavior was noticeably more impaired when they consumed the diet mixer.

The researchers were particularly concerned by the fact that despite being more intoxicated after consuming drinks made with diet soda, the participants were totally unaware of their increased incapacitation. This lack of awareness could contribute to a higher risk of drunk driving, since many of the subjects believed they were okay to drive even when they were clearly drunk.

The science behind higher intoxication

The reason why alcohol mixed with diet soda can make you drunk faster and keep you inebriated longer lies in the way our bodies process the sugar substitutes found in diet drinks. When you drink alcohol with a sugar-sweetened mixer, the sugar in the mixer slows down the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream. Whether it’s a regular soda or a glass of juice, those sugar-laden liquids help your body digest and metabolize the alcohol at a slower rate.

On the other hand, when you mix your alcohol with a diet drink that’s filled with artificial sweeteners, your body doesn’t have that same buffer in place. Instead, your body is able to absorb the alcohol more rapidly, leading to a sudden spike in blood alcohol levels.

Furthermore, research has shown that artificial sweeteners can actually impair our body’s ability to metabolize alcohol, which can lead to a slower rate of alcohol clearance from the bloodstream. This means that for the same amount of alcohol consumed, your body may eliminate the alcohol more slowly if you’ve mixed it with a diet drink versus a sugar-sweetened beverage.

Be aware of the risks and make informed decisions

This newfound knowledge about the relationship between diet sodas and alcohol absorption should serve as a reminder to be mindful of the choices we make when consuming alcohol. Realizing the potential risks associated with mixing alcohol and diet drinks could help prevent dangerous situations such as drunk driving.

For those looking to enjoy their favorite cocktails without the added sugar and calories, it’s important to understand that there are other options. Opting for other low-calorie or sugar-free mixers such as club soda or seltzer water may be a healthier choice without the negative effects associated with artificial sweeteners. Additionally, be sure to monitor your alcohol consumption and follow standard guidelines for responsible drinking, such as limiting drink quantities and alternating them with glasses of water.

When deciding on a mixer for your alcoholic beverage, remember that your choice can have a significant impact on your overall experience. Be aware of the potential risks from consuming alcohol with diet soft drinks, and make informed decisions to ensure you can have a fun, enjoyable, and safe night out.