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The Boston Globe

Health & wellness

Daily Dose

Do diet mixers get you drunk faster?

My current drink of choice when I go out is a vanilla vodka and soda water — a delightful low-calorie drink. But a small study indicates that a diet mixer increases breath alcohol levels more quickly than a calorie-laden one, which could make a driver more likely to be over the legal limit. This finding published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research isn’t all that shocking. Just as food fills a person up and slows the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream, so, too, would a beverage that contains calories, explained the Northern Kentucky University researchers.

What was surprising was that the 16 study volunteers didn’t feel any more drunk after consuming the alcohol and diet soda compared with when they drank the alcohol and regular soda — even though their breath alcohol levels were 20 percent higher. While the study found diet drinks had the same effect in both men and women, the researchers were particularly concerned about women since some may tend to gravitate more toward calorie-free mixers and also tend to wind up with higher blood alcohol levels than men.

The bottom line: Don’t switch to higher-calorie drink mixes, but rather if you have more than one drink, don’t drive.

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