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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Diet soda mixers get drinkers drunker

A sobering new study shows mixing diet soda with alcohol can lead to getting more drunk than when using regular soda.

The study, authored by a psychology professor at Northern Kentucky University, reflects an experiment conducted by Dennis Thombs, a former associate professor in UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions.

His 2010 study consisted of interviews and Breathalyzer tests gathered from Midtown patrons.

Thombs said he wanted to find out if there was a difference between the blood alcohol levels of people who drank alcohol with diet soda versus regular mixers.

He said diet soda ingredients don’t play a role in alcohol absorption.

“There’s nothing intrinsic in aspartame, the artificial sweetener, that spikes people’s blood alcohol levels,” Thombs said. “It’s just the absence of sugar allows the alcohol to be absorbed as it normally would be.”

Thombs said he found mixer choices have little effect on people’s BAC.

“The differences aren’t enormous, but they’re detectable,” he said. “There could be important implications there because it could put you over the legal limit for driving.”

Thombs said he thinks students should be aware their alcohol limit may not be the same when they use different mixers.

The impact on people’s BAC may not always be physically felt, especially when caffeine, sugar and alcohol are combined.

Director of Gatorwell Maureen Miller said mixers can mask effects of alcohol until it’s too late.

“A lot of times when people are drinking, physically they feel OK, but in reality, their BAC is probably over the legal limit,” she said.

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Thombs said women especially are more likely to use a diet mixer because they’re more conscious about weight than men.

Nigel Smith, professor of geography at UF, teaches a class about alcohol’s social and cultural aspects. He said although the studies aren’t breaking news, students should be aware of what they’re drinking.

“What’s new is the sheer volume of consumption of it, especially these concentrated sodas with lots of caffeine in them,” he said.

But students like Marc Anderson, a 21-year-old UF music junior, seem to think differently.

“Honestly, unless you’re trying to get drunk, it shouldn’t affect you at all,” he said.

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