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Diet drinks build better buzz in new study
Olivia Sylvain / Intern
Recent studies show that alcohol mixed with diet or artificially sweetened drinks may increase intoxication.
Northern Kentucky University psychology professor Cecile Marczinski performed a three-session lab study where participants were given alcoholic drinks with different mixers.
The results from the study showed that those who consumed drinks mixed with diet mixers had higher blood alcohol levels than those who had drinks mixed with regular sugar-sweetened drinks.
Scott Walters, professor of behavioral and community health at UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth, said that artificially sweetened drinks do not increase intoxication in a dramatic way.
“Alcohol competes with natural sugars and slows down the absorption rate,” Walters said. “A lack of sugar increases the rate of alcohol absorption.”
Marczinski said she was encouraged by the work of Dennis Thombs, chairman and professor of the School of Public Health at the health center.
“I did my study because of what Thombs found,” Marczinski said. “I wanted to know why diet mixers made a difference in intoxication.”
Thombs’ research was published in “Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research” in 2011 and focused more on alcohol mixed with caffeinated drinks. Thombs and his research team systematically sampled intoxicated people as they exited bars, a different method from that of Marczinski.
“I answer certain kinds of research questions in the natural environment under natural conditions,” Thombs said of his research. “I like to study what happens in the real world.”
Women are prone to ordering drinks mixed with diet drink mixers because they are more weight conscious, according to Marczinski’s findings. The study also said women’s bodies are different from men’s and they react to alcohol differently, usually causing increased intoxication.
“At the college population level, women are catching up with men’s drinking habits, but women are more prone to problems with alcohol,” Marczinski said.
Walters said younger people should drink responsibly and in moderation. Practices like pacing drinks, avoiding drinking games and alternating between alcoholic drinks and water can reduce harmful effects.