Many people are addicted to soft drinks, despite the most commonly associated health risks: such as obesity, tooth decay, diabetes, heart disease, food addictions, blood sugar disorders and other eating disorders.
These common problems still don’t detour Americans from consuming more than 13.15 billion gallons of carbonated drinks every year. That averages out to be an alarming 600 12-ounce servings (12 oz.) per person per year!
Although we hear the dangers of the addiction, just as we do with tobacco and other substances, we still consume them to no avail. And, according to a recent autopsy report, one woman has died conclusively due to her love of soft drinks.
A coroner has found that an Invercargill woman who drank up to 10 litres of Coca-Cola a day is likely to have died from the soft drink.
Natasha Harris, a 30-year-old mother of eight, died of a heart attack on the toilet in her home on February 25, 2010. However, at the time there was no obvious cause of death and the corner was called to investigate.
In a report released, Coronor David Crerar criticised Ms Harris’ excessive consumption of Coke, between six and 10 litres a day, saying the soft drink was a major factor in her death.
“Natasha Harris knew, or ought to have known and recognised, the health hazard of her chosen diet and lifestyle,” he said.
“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 the metabolic imbalances, which gave rise to arrhythmia (a heart attack).”
Despite her addiction, the family of Natasha Harris didn’t consider Coke was harmful.
Mr Crerar says pre-existing conditions such as persistent vomiting and a poor diet also contributed to Ms Harris’ heart failure, but he says these alone could not have caused her death. She also had an enlarged fatty liver due to excessive sugar consumption.
“Were it not for the consumption of very large quantities of Coke it is unlikely that she would have died when she died and how she died,” he said.
A statement from Ms Harris’s long-time partner Christopher Hodgkinson suggests she was addicted to Coke and would suffer withdrawals from the soft drink.
“She would get moody and get headaches if she didn’t have any Coke and also feel low in energy,” he said.
Mr Hodgkinson says the effects of Ms Harris’ excessive consumption were widespread, with many of her teeth rotting out and one of her children being born without tooth enamel.
A set of recommendations has been sent to the Ministry of Health and Coca Cola. Among them, Coroner Crerar has suggested clearer warning on labels about the dangers of excessive sugar and caffeine in carbonated beverages, an idea supported by an addiction expert.
National Addiction Centre Director Doug Sellman gave expert advice at the inquest.
He says there are a number of things in Coca-Cola which can spark habitual compulsive behaviors among consumers.
“I think it’s a very cleverly engineered product which combines sugar, caffeine, the effervescence, the fizz to it, and the other sort of flavourings and taste to the whole experience of taking Coke.”
Doug Sellman says there needs to be better retail signaling so it’s clear to consumers what they’re buying.
But Coca-Cola is rejecting findings that the death was most likely due to excessive consumption.
Coca-Cola Oceania says the Coroner’s finding is contrary to the evidence which showed the experts could not completely agree on the most likely cause.
The company says it is disappointed the Coroner chose to focus on the excessive consumption of Coke.
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