Natasha Harris, a 30-year-old mother of eight, died of a heart attack, and experts think it was probably caused by her habit of drinking more than two gallons of Coke per day. Coca-Cola, however, thinks it’s probably just because she drank too much liquid; even too much water can cause dramatic symptoms, they say.
Harris, who lived in New Zealand, died in February 2010, but it wasn’t until yesterday that pathologist Dan Mornin testified in an inquest that it was likely caused by her Coke-guzzling habit. He explained that excessive consumption of cola causes low potassium levels, or hypokalemia, whose symptoms can include abnormal heart rhythms; he also suspects that toxic levels of caffeine could have contributed to her death.
Harris’ partner, Chris Hodgkinson, said in a deposition that she was hooked on Coca-Cola, guzzling between eight and ten liters (2.1-2.8 gallons) per day:
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.
Clearly, this woman’s level of consumption was extreme (or at least, we hope it is), and Harris also testified that her other health habits were lacking (Hodgkinson also said she ate little and smoked over two packs a day), but it’s still worth considering the dangers of a regular Coca-Cola habit. According to pathologist Martin Sage, who also released statements for the deposition, this isn’t the first time that dramatic health symptoms have been linked to Coke:
…it is certainly well demonstrated that excessive long or short term cola ingestion can be dramatically symptomatic, and there are strong hypothetical grounds for this becoming fatal in individual cases.
But Coca-Cola doesn’t want you to worry; Karen Thompson, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Oceania, assures customers that this was Harris’ fault; not Coke’s:
We concur with the information shared by the coroner’s office that the grossly excessive ingestion of any food product, including water, over a short period of time with the inadequate consumption of essential nutrients, and the failure to seek appropriate medical intervention when needed, can be dramatically symptomatic.
Sure, overconsumption of water could kill you, but most people aren’t addicted to water to the point of drinking over two gallons a day (and using it to replace proper nutrition). What’s more, this isn’t the first time links have been made between Coca-Cola’s products and heart health issues; even for more moderate consumers, there are serious health risks associated with the product.