Whiskey & Diet, No Wait...Soda

Alcohol mixed with artificial sweeteners increased breath alcohol content

December 15, 2012 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

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(dailyRx News) Diet soda can help cut the calories of mixers in cocktails, but can also put a person over the legal limit without them ever knowing it. Regular soda and diet soda affect the body differently.

A recent study did multiple tests on a group of 16 adults drinking vodka mixed with either regular or diet soda. The study results showed that diet soda drinkers had higher breath alcohol contents after drinking the same amount of vodka.

Drinkers said they didn’t feel any difference between the two types of mixers, but diet soda drinkers performed worse on a reaction time test.

"Try club soda for a non-calorie mixer."

Cecile A. Marczinski, PhD, from the Department of Psychological Science at Northern Kentucky University, led investigators to discover whether artificial sweeteners affect breath alcohol levels.

For the small study, 16 men and women participated in three separate drinking sessions.

In each session, participants drank 1-3 drinks containing either: 1.97 ml/kg of vodka mixed with 3.94 ml/kg of Squirt, or the same amount of vodka and diet Squirt or a fake cocktail containing no alcohol.

Breath alcohol concentrations (BrAC) were gauged with a breathalyzer at the end of each session.

Participants were also asked about how they felt based on what they consumed.

  • Where they tired?
  • Did they feel intoxicated?
  • Would they feel comfortable driving home?

Finally, participants were asked to do a task that gauged reaction time before leaving.

The average peak of BrAC levels for the vodka and diet soda combination was 0.091 g/210 l.

The average peak of BrAC levels for the vodka and regular soda combination was 0.077 g/210 l.

The performance reaction time task showed slower reaction times for people who drank the vodka and diet soda combination when compared to the vodka and regular soda group.

No gender differences were found in the group, which was 50 percent male/female.

Participants did not notice or report a difference in how they felt after drinking the diet soda vs. regular soda.

This is important to note in places where the BrAC level for driving while intoxicated is 0.08.

The difference between 0.091 and 0.077 from consuming the same amount of alcohol, but with a different type of non-alcoholic mixer could mean violating the law.

This was a small study and further research should be conducted to verify these findings.

Personal breathalyzers are inexpensive and available online.

This study was published in December in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Funding was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institutes of Health.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 13, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013