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article imageOp-Ed: Woman dies drinking 10 litres of Coca-Cola a day

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By Paul Wallis     Feb 12, 2013 in Health
Sydney - A New Zealand woman has been found by the coroner to have died of drinking the incredible amount of 10 litres of Coke a day. Coca-Cola opposed the finding on the grounds that the cause of death couldn’t be proven, but were overruled by the coroner.
The Sydney Morning Herald outlines the very sad, inelegant death:
Drinking too much Coke killed mother of eight Natasha Harris, a New Zealand coroner has found.
Ms Harris drank up to 10 litres of Coke every day – equal to more than twice the recommended safe daily limit of caffeine and almost 1 kilogram of sugar.
She died aged 30, on February 25, 2010, from a cardiac arrest. Her partner, Christopher Hodgkinson, found her seated on the toilet, slumped against the wall and gasping for air.
In fairness, this incredible quantity of caffeine and sugar isn’t necessarily any kind of reflection on the famously secret formula of Coca Cola or any other product of its kind. Drinking that much caffeine and sugar in any form would very probably get the same results. Ms Harris was also reported to be experiencing symptoms like withdrawals.
Where this case becomes important is the food culture aspect. This sad death is pretty much outside the ballpark for conventional dietary studies, which haven’t really been keeping pace with modern drinks. Only recently, large amounts of high caffeine products have been found to cause adverse effects, but not to the point of being lethal.
Caffeine Independence.com cites the issues related to caffeine addiction:
In the United States the average per capita daily intake among adult caffeine consumers is 280 milligrams (the equivalent of 17 ounces of brewed coffee or 84 ounces of soft drink). Studies show that 30 milligrams or less of caffeine can alter self-reports of mood and affect behavior and 100 mg per day can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms upon abstinence.
This isn’t the only instance of “death by caffeine”. In 2010, a British man was reported by TIME Magazine to have died citing how much caffeine it takes to create a lethal dose:
AOL Health reports that Bedford had the equivalent of 70 energy drinks in his system at the time of his death in April. According to Dr. Eric Braverman, a lethal dose of caffeine would be about 10,000 milligrams — or 100 cups of coffee — the website reports.
The New Zealand case also included this information:
The coronial decision revealed Ms Harris likely suffered from a myriad of medical conditions, including a racing heart and ‘‘absent teeth’’, which her family say had rotted out from Coke consumption.
They contend, also, that the amount of Coke Ms Harris drank ruined her children’s teeth, with at least one of her kids being born without enamel.
Grim, indeed, but at this stage we’re really in the area of abuse, rather than normal usage of caffeine. The sheer quantity of sugar involved also raises other medical issues, notably diabetes, not directly mentioned in the coronial findings, but an obvious risk with this incredible amount of consumption of sugar. A kilo of sugar a day would be quite bad enough as a dietary condition without caffeine playing any role in the resulting health condition.
The question remains- What’s to be done in finding a line between fun things to drink and “suicide sugar” levels? Don’t hold your breath waiting for any sort of regulation- This will become another health issue with much rhetoric and no action.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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