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Why Drinking Diet Soda Makes You More Likely to Get a DUI

Nothing says bacchanalia quite like an ice-cold glass of diet soda. At least, that may become the norm due to the results of a new study that has found that consuming alcohol with diet soda will actually get you more drunk—at least in terms of your...

by Alex Swerdloff
Dec 2 2015, 7:00pm

Photo via Flickr user MrTinDC

The next time you and your merry band of misfits embark on a debauched night of revelry and pizza slices of dubious origin, you best make sure to bring along a couple of packs of Tab and Shasta from your grandparent's fridge. After all, nothing says bacchanalia quite like an ice-cold glass of diet soda.

At least, that may become the norm due to the results of a new study that has found that consuming alcohol with diet soda will actually get you more drunk—at least in terms of your Breathalyzer reading. Get ready to crack open some diet pop, because the Northern Kentucky University researchers discovered that subjects who drank diet soda mixed with vodka had a higher concentration of alcohol on their breath than those who drank the same amount of vodka mixed with regular soda.

READ: Soda Is Following in Tobacco's Shady Footsteps

The study, which was published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, aims to make the public aware that avoiding extra calories by mixing alcohol with a diet soda will result in a higher breath alcohol concentration. Researchers conducted the study by giving a pool of ten men and ten women—all aged between 21 and 30—five mixed drinks of varying combinations over five sessions. The participants then had their breath alcohol concentration measured for three hours, during which time it was discovered that there was a higher alcohol concentration correlation for the mixed drinks that included diet soda.

Although the results are not generalizable to real-life scenarios, they are consistent with findings from previous studies. When using small amounts of alcohol in the mixed drink, breath alcohol concentrations were 22 percent higher for drinkers of the diet soda combination. The researchers saw increases of between 3 percent and 25 percent for larger amounts of alcohol mixed with the diet soda.

Although there was no correlation found between breath alcohol concentration and gender, the researchers do say that younger women are more likely to put diet soda in their mixed drinks and should therefore be aware of the effects.

When Reuters reached out to Dr. Chris Rayner— a gastroenterologist at the University of Adelaide who has previously published work on the same subject—he stated that the gastric-emptying effect diet sodas bring about was likely the reason for higher alcohol concentrations. One of Rayner's previous studies found that diet sodas in mixed drinks had the ability to allow alcohol to move from the stomach to the bloodstream much faster than normal.

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"Although it makes good press, I wouldn't interpret the findings as indicating that diet beverages are 'bad,'" said Rayner. He went on to add this: "My message would be that consuming alcohol without any accompanying nutrients will result in a somewhat higher peak blood alcohol concentration."

Maybe the good doctor is right and this study is exactly what was needed to keep diet soda afloat in an age that seems to have already moved on.