What Happens When Mixed Drinks Are Made with Diet Soda?

With the Fourth of July just around the corner, revelers should think twice before ordering or preparing alcoholic drinks that use diet soda instead of a regular mixer.

Mixed drinks made with diet soda result in faster and more significant intoxication.
Mixed drinks made with diet soda result in faster and more significant intoxication.

According to a study from Northern Kentucky University, intoxication occurs more quickly and more significantly with a diet mixer, without the drinker realizing that it's happening.

Researchers think that the sugar in regular soda slows down the rate of alcohol absorption, as the body recognizes it as food. On the other hand, a mixed drink made with diet soda, typically containing the sweetener aspartame, results in a higher Breath Alcohol Concentration (called BrAC).

The researchers noted an 18 percent increase in BrAC among the 16 volunteers in the study (eight men and eight women) when the tipplers consumed diet mixers along with a set amount of vodka (.03 ounces per pound of body weight.) When the participants drank alcohol mixed with diet soda, the average BrAC was .091 (at its peak). The average BrAC was .077 -- significantly lower -- when the volunteers were poured mixed drinks made with sugary soda.

(Don't) make mine diet:

  • The findings were the first confirmation of the long-held belief that diet mixers can lead to rapid and sometimes unexpected inebriation.

  • Previous research on the subject had only surveyed drinkers in bars, rather than being conducted in a controlled laboratory setting.

  • The findings were published in the April 2013 issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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Discussion Comments

anon1003476

Interesting! I always just thought it was an attempt to have the diet mixer offset the calories in the liquor.

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