Mixing Alcohol with Artificial Sweeteners May Make Your BAC “Artificially High”

Think about this the next time that you order a whiskey and Diet Coke: New research proposes that alcohol consumed with beverages containing artificial sweeteners, such as diet sodas, results in a higher breath-alcohol content (BAC) than if consumed with beverages containing sugar sweetener. The researchers hypothesize that the stomach takes longer to break down sugar (as opposed to artificial sweeteners), thus collaterally slowing the absorption of the alcohol consumed along with the sugar-sweetened drink.

The new research was authored by Cecile Marczinski, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky. The study consisted of 16 participants who were split into three groups. Members of the first group each received a vodka-Squirt drink; members of the second group each received a vodka-Diet Squirt drink; and members of the third group each received a placebo. The results indicated that BAC levels were 18% higher in the vodka-Diet Squirt group than in the other groups.

Having consumed artificial sweeteners with alcohol may not be a defense, however, to DUI charges in which the motorists agrees to the breath test. The primary issue in those cases is whether the motorist was over the BAC limit or not. If the artificial sweetener puts you over the limit, guess what? You are over the limit!

Assuming the study is true, this unexpected phenomenon is yet another reason to be wary of consenting to the breath test. Someone consuming the same number of mixed alcohol drinks with sugar sweetened soda may be on their way down the road, while you, using artificial soda, may be in handcuffs watching your car be towed. Maybe the bottom line is to blow off the diet pop, and not blow into the breath test machine. Sugar-sweetened drinks aren’t that bad, after all.