How Many Red Bulls Would Kill You?

It is a picture of a fridge full of energy dri...

Image via Wikipedia

The folks at Energy Fiend have developed an online calculator called “Death by Caffeine” that tells you roughly how many Red Bulls, Monsters, Rock Stars, etc you’d have to drink to keel over.  The number of drinks you can choose from on the killer-drink drop down menu is staggering, but upon closer inspection it looks like they include regular sodas like Pepsi, Coke and the like along with the amped up drinks (and even energy mints and coffee ice cream).

I’m going to enter my information, choosing Red Bull as my initial poison. Here’s the result:

It would take 204.75 cans of Red Bull to put you down.

Comparatively:

Gulp down 474.78 cans of Coca-Cola Classic and you’re history.

You could drink 297.82 cans of Mountain Dew before croaking.

It would take 109.20 cups of Starbucks Tall Caffe Americano to put you down.

If you eat 341.25 Cups of Haagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream, you’ll be pushing up daisies.

By the way (and I say this as a die-hard coffee drinker), imbibing caffeine to stay awake is one of the silliest things we humans do.  The reason is this: in the brain, caffeine acts as an antagonist (a blocker) of adenosine–the neurotransmitter that pushes us closer and closer to sleep until we nod off–and it’s very good at accomplishing this. The problem is that with less exposure to adenosine, we become even more sensitive to the neurotransmitter’s effects. If we reduce our intake of caffeine, or simply become more tolerant of it, we actually find ourselves becoming more tired. So then we jack up the caffeine to counteract the withdrawal, but that just increases our tolerance.

Takeaway: you can only fool your brain into not sleeping for so long before succumbing to the inevitable crash.

HT: MindHacks

Advertisements

Put Down the Diet Soda or Your Brain Will Make You Pay

drink diet coke! You are sweet enough as you are

Image by Darwin Bell via Flickr

Diet soda is a fun target for psychology and neurobiology researchers. Past studies have linked drinking it to a plethora of badness, most ironically–weight gain (though I doubt they made a dent in sales. Coke Zero came out shortly after the weight gain findings were released and last I checked it was outselling Diet Coke). Now a new study  in the journal Psychological Science investigates whether drinking diet soda makes people more impulsive.

Researchers used the always gratifying delayed gratification ploy to test the hypothesis. Participants responded to a  series of questions asking, in different ways, whether they’d prefer to receive a moderate amount of money tomorrow or a larger amount at a later date.  

The first battery of questions were asked before the participants drank either a regular soda (containing sugar) or diet soda (containing aspartame), and another round were asked after they finished drinking. In addition, blood glucose levels were measured before and after the participants finished the sodas. 

The results: participants who drank regular soda, and therefore had higher blood glucose levels, were significantly more likely to choose receiving more money at a later date. Those who drank diet sodas and had lower blood glucose levels were more likely to take the smaller amount of money upfront.

The study authors think the reason is that higher blood glucose levels provide the mental juice for our brains to be more future-oriented. This could be because envisioning the future—in all of its fuzzy abstractness—drains more energy than observing the concrete here-and-now. 

So, when someone drinks a diet soda—which is designed to trick the brain into thinking it’s getting a nice dose of sugar—the brain eagerly awaits an energy surge. When it never comes, panic alarms go off. The brain interprets the lack of blood glucose as a calorie shortage, and impulse is given free reign to get the body what it needs. Delaying gratification under those conditions isn’t going to be easy. 

The takeaway here is not to start drinking regular soda instead of diet soda—it’s to stop drinking soda, or any sugary or fake-sugary drinks.  The impulse culprit in this study isn’t really diet soda; it’s erratic fluctuations in blood glucose levels induced by loading up on sugar or chemicals that mimic sugar.  Theoretically, if you level off the glucose highs and lows, decision-making will benefit. 

And your brain will stop smacking you around.