Alcohol, diet drink study goes nationwide


Research by Cecile Marczinski (pictured) was recently recognized by over 30 news outlets, including CNN and TIME magazine. Her study focuses on mixing alcohol and diet drinks.

An NKU professor is receiving national publicity once again after last week’s release of her study on mixing alcohol and diet soft drinks. Cecile Marczinski is an assistant professor in the department of psychological science. Her most recent study to be published in the Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research journal indicates that diet soda and energy drinks, when mixed with alcohol, can increase a drinker’s blood alcohol level faster than regular soft drinks and alcohol mixed.

“Given widespread concerns about weight and obesity, individuals have increasingly turned to artificially sweetened foods and beverages. As alcohol contains calories, it is perhaps unsurprising that individuals might consume alcohol with diet mixers to limit the overall number of calories consumed,” Marczinski said.

Marczinski explained that when something is consumed the stomach identifies the sugar and digests it. With diet drinks, there is nothing for the stomach to identify so the alcohol goes straight to the small intestine. There it is absorbed into the bloodstream, which leads to individuals becoming intoxicated faster.

“You get an 18 percent higher BrAC [breath alcohol level] when you mix alcohol with diet drinks,” Marczinski said. “The presence of food can be so important that reductions in peak BrAC have been reported to be as much as 20 – 57 percent when food is present in the stomach as compared with when alcohol is consumed alone.”

For the study, 16 social drinking students, (of equal gender) with an average age of 23, were recruited. Participants answered extensive demographic and medical questionnaires before the study. Recruits were required to “fast two hours, abstain from any form of caffeine eight hours, and abstain from alcohol for 24 hours” before the experiment.

At the time of arrival, a drug test and breathalyzer reading was given; participants then consumed their drinks within ten minutes. Once their blood alcohol level peaked, they were quizzed on various computer tasks. Students weren’t allowed to leave until their BrAC was around .02. A stipend of $30 and a meal was included for each lab session.

Although Marczinski has received national attention from over 30 news outlets including CNN, ABC, NBC and TIME magazine, her main goal is to educate consumers.

“My goal is to have people drink alcohol or energy drinks safely,” Marczinski said. “I am trying to provide information to consumers, so they can enjoy these products without causing themselves harm.”