Background: Mixed alcoholic drinks are increasingly being consumed in "diet" varieties, which could potentially empty more rapidly from the stomach and thereby increase the rate of alcohol absorption when compared with "regular" versions containing sugar.
Methods: We studied 8 healthy males twice in randomized order. On each day, they consumed an orange-flavored vodka beverage (30 g ethanol in 600 mL), made with either "regular" mixer containing sucrose (total 478 kcal), or "diet" mixer (225 kcal).
Results: Gastric half-emptying time measured by ultrasound (mean+/-standard deviation) was less for the "diet" than the "regular" drink (21.1+/-9.5 vs 36.3+/-15.3 minutes, P <.01). Both the peak blood ethanol concentration (0.053+/-0.006 vs 0.034+/-0.008 g%, P <.001) and the area under the blood ethanol concentration curve between 0 and 180 minutes (5.2+/-0.7 vs 3.2+/-0.7 units, P <.001) were greater with the "diet" drink.
Conclusions: Substitution of artificial sweeteners for sucrose in mixed alcoholic beverages may have a marked effect on the rate of gastric emptying and the blood alcohol response.