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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I'm dubious

If you’re mixing up a cocktail and worried about how drunk you’ll feel after finishing it, you might be closely measuring the amount of liquor that you pour in. But recent research suggests that your choice of mixer—whether regular soda or diet—plays a key role in determining how that alcohol affects your body.

A new study, published by Cecile Marczinski and Amy Stamates of Northern Kentucky University in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER), indicates that drinking diet soda with liquor causes breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) to rise more quickly than if the exact same amount of alcohol was mixed with regular soda instead. Among the 16 participants who were tested as part of the experiment, those who’d been given diet soda as a mixer had their BrAC peak at levels 18% higher than those whose drink was mixed with regular soda.
The theory that the researchers proposed to explain this heretofore unknown alcohol-magnification-effect was that the human body treated the sugar in the regular soda as food and therefore slowed down the absorption process while allowing the diet soda to flow through unimpeded. Well, they always tell you to eat something before you start drinking so perhaps they have something there. Nevertheless, I'm dubious. You'd think they'd have used plain water to test their hypothesis but there's no evidence that they did so. Is it possible that something more interesting is going on? Is the alcohol and the aspartame in the diet Squirt reacting somehow with the acid in the stomach? Something's going on here and at first glance it seems to be something fairly major.

A drinker who regularly drinks a couple of bourbon and Cokes when out with his friends and never experiences any noticeable impairment while driving, will suddenly be DUI if he decides to go on a diet. I'd say this was major; wouldn't you? Unfortunately however, the study referenced above only had 16 subjects and there's no mention at all of a control group. I don't have access to the full study's details so I'm unaware what if any constraints they put in place to maintain ceteris paribus in the study. Were the experimental subjects each instructed to eat or perhaps not to eat for some predetermined period of time before the commencement of the study? An eighteen percent difference in BAC is massive. Imagine running 18% faster or losing 18% of your weight or getting 18% better gas mileage! The other thing this study is to me, is horrifying. What's going on here? If aspartame increases alcoholic absorption by 18% what might some other brand new-and-improved artificial ingredient do to us? I'm curious. You'd think they would have tested these artificial sweeteners with a variety of foods and drinks, including alcohol before putting them in practically everything.

What about you? Is this good news, bad news, or just news? Will it make you drink less, switch drinks, or happily get more for your money? My favorite drink—and believe me I've tried 'em all—is my own concoction. It's a jigger of vodka, three ounces of orange juice and six ounces of diet Mountain Dew. It's a cross between a screw-driver and a dew-driver, and it's far better than either one. It's also fairly low calorie. Today I found out it's also exceptionally efficient as in a little dab'll dew ya.

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