By Jennifer Lilonsky ( | First Posted: Feb 05, 2013 11:15 PM EST

(Photo : Reuters )

A new study released in the journal Alcoholism reveals that mixing alcohol with diet soda might make the concoction more potent than using a full-calorie beverage to cut the booze.

Researchers found that mixing alcohol and sugar-free soft drinks resulted in higher breath alcohol content than mixing alcohol with regular soft drinks.

"The results were surprising," assistant professor in the department of psychological science at Northern Kentucky University Cecile A. Marczinski said.

The study involved observing subjects after being served either vodka added to a diet beverage, vodka added to a regular drink or a regular soft drink with a vodka scent added to it so that the study participants would think it was an alcoholic beverage.

The subjects who were given the vodka and diet soft drink cocktail had a higher breath alcohol content and the highest level of behavioral impairment compared to all the other participants.

"We are talking about significant differences here," Marczinski said. "Participants who drank diet soda with vodka had blood alcohol contents as high as 18 percent more than when sugar-containing mixers were used."

The belief is that drinks containing sugar act like eating a meal does and therefore, delays alcohol absorption in the bloodstream because it delays stomach emptying.

"This is why the southern European countries have lower rates of alcoholism despite their increased alcohol intake," said Petros Levounis who was not involved in the study and is the director of the Addiction Institute of New York. "They always drink while eating."

Diet beverages contain no sugar and do not trigger the same response, allowing alcohol to reach the bloodstream quicker.

"The choice of what you mix your alcohol with can make a difference," Marczinski said. "In the long run, it's more harmful for your body to be exposed to a higher alcohol concentration than a few extra calories."

The American Beverage Association released a statement in response to the study after the study's findings began circulating the web. 

"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," the ABA said. "If the study participants consumed alcohol with any other non-caloric beverage, including water or even club soda, the results would be the same." 

The beverage association also said that the real concern is the effects of alcohol itself and not the results of mixing it with anything. 

The ABA is a trade association that represents companies that manufacture and distribute non-alcoholic beverages in the U.S.---just like the diet soda that was called into question in the study. 


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