A 30-year-old New Zealand woman, Natasha Harris, who drank between 8 and 10 liters (2 to 2 1/2 gallons) of Coca-Cola a day died in February of 2010 of a heart attack. A pathologist has ruled that her excessive daily soda intake “probably” played a part in her death, says the Associated Press via the Guardian.
On Thursday, Dr Dan Mornin testified that Harris was very likely suffering from hypokalemia, or low potassium, whose symptoms include abnormal heart rhythms. Chris Hodgkinson, Harris’ partner, testified that
The first thing she would do in the morning was to have a drink of Coke beside her bed and the last thing she would do at night was have a drink of Coke. She was addicted to Coke.
Hodgkinson also said that, in the months before she died, Harris had lacked energy and had problems with her blood pressure. Her other health habits did not help: She reportedly ate little and smoked 30 cigarettes a day.
Lisa te Morenga, a nutritionist at the University of Otago, also emphasized that “excessive consumption of any type of liquid in a cool climate would be likely to play havoc with the body’s natural systems and balances.”
Not surprisingly, Coca-Cola Oceania has said that “grossly excessive ingestion of any food product, including water, over a short period of time with the inadequate consumption of essential nutrients” can be problematic.
While Harris’ dietary and other habits were extreme, all of those liters/gallons of Coca-Cola must have been wreaking havoc on her body. In the U.S., people consume about 50 gallons of soda per year; all of this imbibing of soda is linked to the rise in childhood obesity and also diabetes. Consumption of soda in such high amounts has been linked to tooth problems, bone demineralization and the development of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. A 2009 study found that hypokalaemia can have “adverse effects on vital muscle functions,” including “mild weakness” and “profound paralysis.” A 2010 study has linked excessive soda consumption to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Vivien Hodgkinson, Harris’ mother-in-law, said in Agence France-Presse that her daughter-in-law would “go crazy if she ran out [of Coca-Cola]… she would get shakes, withdrawal symptoms, be angry, on edge and snappy.” Hodgkinson has called for health labels on soft drinks, to warn consumers of the dangers of drinking too much.
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Photo by Coca-Cola South Africa