Friday, October 06, 2006

"Diet" Cocktails Get You Drunk Faster

Having your alcohol with a sugar-free artificially sweetened mixer may cut calories, but it will also make you drunker, a study suggests.

The problem, Australian researchers found, is that drinks made with "diet" mixers pass through the stomach more rapidly and, therefore, make blood alcohol levels spike particularly high.

Their findings, published in the September issue of the American Journal of Medicine and reported earlier this year at a medical conference, are based on an experiment with eight healthy young men.

The volunteers had their blood alcohol levels measured repeatedly in each of two conditions: once after having a vodka beverage made with a sugary mixer, and once after drinking the same amount of vodka with an artificially sweetened mixer.

The researchers also used ultrasound tests to measure each volunteer's rate of stomach emptying after having the drink.

They found that with the diet mixer, the men's stomachs emptied about 15 minutes sooner than when they downed the regular mixer.

Blood alcohol levels peaked at around the same time -- 30 minutes after having the drink -- regardless of which mixer was used. The difference, however, was that alcohol levels surged higher with the low-calorie mixer: to 0.05 percent, on average, versus 0.03 percent with the sugar-sweetened mixer.

In some jurisdictions, this would mean the difference between driving legally and driving drunk, according to the study authors, led by Dr. Christopher K. Rayner of Royal Adelaide Hospital.

The difference in peak blood alcohol levels was "striking," the researchers write, and it shows that a drink's alcohol content isn't the only factor people should consider.

In general, women's blood alcohol levels soar higher than men's after drinking the same amount alcohol. And women may be particularly drawn to diet mixers in order to cut calories, the researchers note.

SOURCE: American Journal of Medicine, September 2006.

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