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Kiwi Coroner says Coca-Cola helped kill woman

Cardiac arrhythmia followed nine litres a day habit

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New Zealand’s Coroner for Dunedin, David Cerar, has reportedly found excessive consumption of Coca-Cola helped to kill a woman.

Natasha Harris, a 31-year old resident of the southern city Invercargill, died last year. The Coroner's report, which was sent to The Reg by the New Zealand Justice Department, says Harris’ partner told the Coroner Harris drank only Coca-Cola, at a rate of about four 2.25 litre bottles a day, and became irritable if she could not get her hands on the beverage. The report also says Harris hardly ate, usually skipping breakfast, eating only small lunches and seldom partaking in an evening meal. She would often vomit upon waking in the morning.

The report notes that Coke contains 106 grams of cane sugar per litre, and 97 milligrams of caffeine, with a safe level of the latter being 400 milligrams (an espresso coffee contains an average of 106 milligrams, according to this study).

Harris was therefore consuming nearly a kilogram of sugar a day and as much caffeine as found in eight espresso shots, all while eating little proper food.

She was also a 30-a-day smoker.

TVNZ says Coroner Cerar found the cause of Harris’ death was cardiac arrhythmia, but added that “ … when all the available evidence is considered, were it not for the consumption of very large quantities of Coke by Natasha Harris, it is unlikely that she would have died when she died and how she died.”

“On the balance of probabilities it is more likely than not that the drinking of very large quantities of Coke was a substantial factor that contributed to the development of metabolic imbalances, which gave rise to the arrhythmia."

Those imbalances probably came about because while Harris got plenty of energy from Coke, the fact she wasn't eating means she did not get enough of other essential nutrients such as protein. If the body can’t find enough protein it will source it from the body's own muscle. While the heart isn’t tapped as a source of protein until times of dire need, when the body does so it’s not good news given the heart's critical role in keeping us alive.

Coroner Cerar will issue recommendations to the effect that soft drink bottle labels should more clearly explain how much caffeine they contain and the dangers of excessive consumption. ®

Bootnote

In a past journalistic life your correspondent interviewed the creator of a weight loss program for working class men, who recounted the story of a crane operator who took several litres of Coke with him into the cabin each day.

The crane driver eventually became so obese that the crane’s levers pushed against his body, causing sores.

The first step in this sorry individual’s weight loss program was a switch to Diet Coke.

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