A small bit of research on the use of different mixers, such as juice, soda or diet soda, suggests that diet soda might increase breath alcohol content more than higher calorie sugary beverages.

An individual's breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) is influenced by several factors, including food, which delays the stomach emptying. Now researchers are looking into how various mixers affect BrAC. A new comparison has found that mixing alcohol with a diet soft drink can result in a higher BrAC. It may be that the stomach seems to treat sugar-sweetened beverages like food, but not diet beverages.

"More attention needs to be paid to how alcohol is being consumed in the 'real world,'" said Cecile A. Marczinski, assistant professor of psychology at Northern Kentucky University. She referenced an earlier field study of bar patrons. "Researchers found that, one, individuals who reported consuming alcohol with diet beverages had the highest BrACs, as compared to all other bar patrons, and two, that women tended to be more frequent consumers of diet mixers with their alcohol. These good naturalistic observations give researchers many ideas to explore in a controlled laboratory setting."

The American Beverage Association released a statement saying, “This paper, which looks at only 16 people, does not show that mixing diet soft drinks with alcohol causes increased intoxication. Rather, it simply supports the long known fact that consuming calories - from any food or beverage - along with alcohol slows down its impact.  If the study participants consumed alcohol with any other non-caloric beverage, including water or even club soda, the results would be the same. Most importantly, consumers need to be aware of the effects of alcohol itself – regardless of whether or not they consume it together with anything else.”

Results will be published in the April 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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