We're reminded that booze and artificially sweetened mixers sometimes can be a problematic combo. The study that figured this out has been around for a while, but it's being given fresh attention thanks to the June edition of the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter, which offers news and expert advice from the School of Public Health.

Citing a 2006 Australian study, the “Wellness Made Easy” column warns us of the dangers of consuming alcohol and diet mixers on an empty stomach. The problem is that the fake sweeteners leave the stomach faster than mixers made with regular sugar, allowing the alcohol to be absorbed into the blood more quickly. (In contrast, sugar slows down the absorption of alcohol.) The research suggests that even carbonated, no-calorie mixers like club soda may jump-start the absorption of booze in our bloodstream.

Says the newsletter: “Just one mixed drink containing diet soda may be enough to raise your blood alcohol level beyond the legal limit.”

The Australian team of researchers, led by Dr. Chris Rayner of the Royal Adelaide Hospital, said there is a reason for the faux-sugar rush: Artificial sweeteners cause the stomach to empty at an accelerated pace. The medical team reported that they were surprised by the results of the study.

The researchers examined what happened when a group of volunteers drank orange-flavored vodka drinks made from alcohol and sugar and the same drinks made with a diet mixer. The medical team found that the peak blood alcohol concentration was much higher with the low-cal version of the drink and that the stomach emptied faster.

Also in the June Berkeley Wellness Letter is another alcohol-related warning: People with a genetic disposition for colorectal cancer should avoid heavy drinking (which they define as two or more drinks a day.) A study this past February in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer and determined that they are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol consumption. The researchers followed 135,000 health-care workers and found that those who had two drinks a day were twice as likely to develop colorectal cancer if they had a family history of the disease. (Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer among men and women in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. Family history is considered a top risk factor.)

The researchers of this study concluded: “Reducing alcohol consumption may decrease the incidence of colon cancer, especially among those with a family history of colorectal cancer.”

The editors of the Wellness Letter are giving Squid Ink readers a freebie — their secret June password, normally reserved for subscribers. (Now don't you feel special?) Go to WellnessLetter.com and look for Past Issues or the Subscriber's Corner. The current password is: potassium. You can check out the June issue, as well as the archives of past issues.

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