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As we all already know, caffeine and the workplace have become increasingly synonymous in recent years. An essential prerequisite to most office based activities, we take it to meetings, use it as an excuse to take a break, bond over it with colleagues and in most cases, require one or two hits to even make it to the desk on time. In fact, it’s so normal that we don’t even bat an eyelid, despite the harm we might be doing to ourselves.
However, since my arrival to the BCL Legal London office, I seem to have shocked colleagues with my (admittedly, fairly excessive) diet coke habit. Yes, I do drink roughly 5-6 cans per day and get headaches if I don’t drink it, but I also drink plenty of water and have never had a filling! However, I’m wiling to bet I’m consuming less caffeine and less sugar than my coffee drinking colleagues, who I know also suffer the same withdrawal symptoms.
It is for this reason that I have decided to undertake some research into the positives and negatives of drinking such levels of caffeine, and see if I can find out what damage, if any we’re causing to ourselves with this seemingly harmless habit.
Firstly, for my personal benefit, I am pleased to confirm that it seems Diet Coke has just over a quarter of the amount of caffeine as a normal cup of coffee – on average 35mg vs 150mg of caffeine. If you take sugar it also is far higher in sugar and calories too! Dieticians, however recommend that we limit both, as the long term effects of the chemical Aspartame in Diet Coke are still unknown.
On the positive side, since my days at university I’d always been aware of the positive effect caffeine could have, but had never understood why. For those like me, who don’t know the science behind this wonderful drug, during my research I learned that caffeine actually blocks a chemical found in the brain called adenosine, which is responsible for the slowing down of brain activity. Caffeine actively stops this chemical reaching its relevant receptor in the brain and replaces it. This means that when we should be feeling tired we actually release adrenaline and boost our metabolisms. On top, a rise of caffeine in the system has also been shown to a decrease in the perceived effort of physical tasks, helps you to feel more alert and mentally stimulated, as well as breaking down fats through lipolysis.
On the negative side, you’ll probably find you have need to visit the little boys/girls room more regularly, you’ll suffer greater lows and feelings of tiredness when you aren’t drinking the stuff, you will increase your heartrate (possibly causing tremors and cardiac irregularities), it is likely that long term users will develop high blood pressure and finally in really extreme cases, you might develop Caffeine Toxicity (usually limited where you’ve consumed 500mg at once), includes agitation, insomnia, loss of breath and dizziness. On top of this, there are also some pretty bad withdrawal effects too, including headaches and tiredness.
Overall it seems that firstly, Diet Coke is much better than its warmer alternatives if you must consume caffeine in some form, (take that BCL Legal London!) but overall the message seems to be that moderation is key. In fact, the positive effects actually start to tail off once 200mg of caffeine enters the system so there’s little benefit in drinking more than 2 cups anyway! I think it is unlikely that we are going to replace our coffee meetings with green tea meetings, but might as well continue to consume our caffeine as educated consumers and perhaps with slightly more moderation!