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Do alcohol and sugar mix?


Alcoholic gin and tonic with a lime garnish

Credit: 123RF

There are more than a few ridiculous paradoxes in this world. You don’t have to look any further than the latest election in the “United States” to find one. A far more individual one, and possibly less important, is the paradoxical habit of some people to order a shot of spirits and then, as if on a health kick, to order a “diet” version of a mixer sweetened with artificial sweetener. As it happens, though, those people might be experiencing an unexpected effect.

In the study, researchers had women of approximately 25 years of age complete four separate trials. Each trial was separated by at least two days. The trials involved the women drinking a small amount of vodka mixed with either water, aspartame (an artificial sweetener), 15 grams of sugar or 50 grams of sugar. Breath tests were given to the women over a three-and-a-half-hour time frame. In that time, the woman were tested for their cognitive performance, their self-estimated breath alcohol levels, how drunk they thought they were and their willingness to drive a car.

The results showed that sugar led to lower breath test results and the more sugar present, the lower the reading. Compared to drinks containing an artificial sweetener or no sweetener, breath readings were an average 8 per cent lower with 15g of sugar and 37 per cent lower with 50g of sugar.

The effect is probably because sugar slows the rate at which substances pass from the stomach and hence the alcohol reaches the small intestine (the site of its absorption) later and at a more measured rate. This means that alcohol metabolism is more efficient and less of it enters the bloodstream.

None of this is to encourage sugar consumption but, if you are choosing a diet mixer to compensate for alcohol-related calories, then you might be getting some unexpected side-effects.

Source: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research



 

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.