NZ woman drank large amounts of Coke and then died

NZ woman drank large amounts of Coke and then died

This story is sad in many ways.  Firstly we must say how sorry we are about Natasha Harris’s death and that we wish all the best to her family and friends.


The safety (or not) of modern foods

I have been in the natural health industry for over 25 years so I am well aware of what soft/cola/fizzy/soda/energy drinks do to the human body.  Basically they rot you from the inside out.  I could write a book on the damage that these kinds of drink do to you (sugar-filled or artificially-sweetened makes no difference – they are all bad), but that is for another day.  What struck me was the seemingly total lack of understanding of what these drinks can do.  Some people clearly think they are as safe as water.  They are anything but safe. 

For those of you who have not heard about this story yet

Natasha Marie Harris, 30, died suddenly on February 25, 2010.  Christopher Hodgkinson, her partner, said at the trial that “I didn’t ever think about the Coke. I never considered it would do any harm to a person. It’s just a soft drink, just like drinking water.  I didn’t think a drink’s was going to kill her”

The current inquest into her sudden death has heard that:

Natasha “drank at least 10 litres a day.  As a family we would buy four 2.5 litres a day, the maximum on special.  The Coke would be for Natasha to consume over the course of the day.  The first thing she would do in the morning was have a drink of Coke and the last thing she would do in the day was have a drink of Coke by her bed”

Natasha had been unwell leading up to her death

Natasha had been vomiting six times a week

Natasha had no energy

Her partner said “she was addicted to Coke and without it she would get moody, irritable and be low in energy”

According to her mother, “she would go crazy if she ran out of Coca-Cola”

Severe hypokalaemia and caffeine toxicity

Medical evidence stated that the main finding of death was from a cardiac arrhythmia.  Pathologist Dr Dan Mornin said he believed Ms Harris “died of cardiac arrhythmia and it was likely she was suffering from hypokalemia (low potassium) along with caffeine toxicity, which could have contributed to her death”.  When asked whether it was probable her consumption of Coca-Cola had caused the hypokalemia and arrhythmia, Dr Mornin said “Yes, along with poor nutrition and caffeine... her death is consistent with symptoms of tiredness and lack of strength and other cases of heavy soft-drink consumers, and it was likely her daily vomiting was due to too much caffeine, medically known as caffeine toxicity”


High calories, high sugar and ZERO nutrition

Natasha Harris’s daily intake of Coca-Cola would have given her almost a KILOGRAM of sugar (3.5 cups) and 3424 calories daily.  Just this Coca-Cola calorie count is more than I eat in two days – let alone any other food or drinks she had.


The really sad part

The part that gets me the worse about this is that this represents so many people.  So many people would consider, as Coke’s PR people have said, that We believe that all foods and beverages can have a place in a balanced and sensible diet combined with an active lifestyle”.  Even if that food or drink sucks the calcium out of your bones and leads you towards obesity, diabetes and heart disease?  The bottom line is that cola/soft/energy/soda and fizzy drinks should come with warning labels.  As Christopher Hodgkinson said in court “I didn’t ever think about the Coke. I never considered it would do any harm to a person. It’s just a soft drink, just like drinking water.  I didn’t think a drink’s was going to kill her”

Energy/soft/soda/fizzy/cola drinks are toxic, dangerous and unnecessary and marketed to unwary children and teenagers.

They are filled with sugar, artificial sweeteners, additives, stimulants and chemicals.

Anyone interested in high-level health should avoid them completely.


I recently blogged on soft drinks:


Soft drinks shown again to increase your child’s risk of heart disease

Your gut instinct to keep your kids off all fizzy, soft, cola, soda or energy drinks is absolutely on the money. They are toxic rubbish and have again shown to raise the risk of heart disease. Researchers at the University of Sydney studied around 2,000 12-year-old children and found that those who drank one or more soft drinks each day had narrower arteries in the back part of the eye. This is one of many signs of pre-heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure).


Institute spokesman Bamini Gopinath commented to the ABC in Australia “Children with a high consumption of soft drinks and carbohydrates had a more adverse microvascular profile compared to those who did not drink so many soft drinks or eat so many [refined] carbs. This is just another piece of evidence to show that fizzy drinks really aren’t that good for our children. More studies like this would build a strong evidence base to perhaps bring about change in policy and practice and in the way foods are products are marketed or advertised to our children.”


Soft drinks are rubbish – allow them as special treats only

This research backs up what was shown in a 2007 Boston University School of Medicine study; that people who drank these types of drinks daily were more likely to have signs of pre-heart disease. Lead author Ramachandran Vasan told the WebMD website that “Even one soda per day increases your risk of developing metabolic syndrome by about 50%”.


I also recently blogged on energy drinks:


Energy drinks are poison; just like cigarettes

Energy drinks have become a modern phenomenon. You see kids throwing them back at the park, at the beach and even on the way to school. These children, teenagers and adults have no idea at all the risk they are playing with. They have been sold by companies telling you the energy drinks will “give you an energy hit” or “slam you like a Mother” or “give you wings” etc. However, all they give you is a synthetic, chemical-filled, sugar rush that will age you, damage your skin, stress your liver, constipate you, remove B-vitamins and minerals and weaken your bones. Not only are they filled with additives, synthetic extracts, preservatives and high doses of stimulants like guarana, caffeine and taurine but they also speed up the heart and raise blood pressure.


They have also been shown to cause heart attacks.


Professor Chris Semsarian, who practices out of Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, has had patients who were hospitalised in the past 12 months with heart rhythm problems after consuming energy drinks. His research team has also seen energy drinks send children to hospital with heart issues. He commented to that “…they can make the heart go faster, leading to very dangerous rhythms which can ultimately lead to sudden death. They can also lead to problems with the blood flow in the heart and this can lead to blockages of arteries and heart attacks in the conventional sense. It’s an especially dangerous situation where the patient or the young person doesn’t know they have an underlying heart problem, they drink the energy drink and then it unmasks the problem.”


Are heart problems climbing amongst our youth?
Yes and dramatically. US ischemic stroke hospitalization rates among young people aged 15-44 went up 37% between 1995 and 2008. These numbers are similar in most modern societies. Hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart problems and lipid disorders have all increased as well. This latest study, which took place over 14 years, was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and published in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and the Child Neurology Society. Sadly the researchers found “significant increase in trends in ischemic stroke hospitalizations among adolescents and young adults.”


Caffeine poisoning also on the rise from energy drinks
Teenagers are the most common age group affected by toxic reactions to energy drinks and often these are consumed with alcohol. Adverse reactions and toxicity from energy drinks are growing significantly. The majority of these problems stem from the high doses of added caffeine in the drinks amongst the other stimulants. Researchers in Australia recently reported that more than a third of people reacting badly to an energy drink ended up in hospital. Writing in The Medical Journal of Australia, the authors say the report is a warning call about energy drinks and that they require health warnings similar to those found on over-the-counter caffeine tablets. Most of the reactions that people have to energy drinks are around the toxic mix of stimulants – primarily caffeine. Caffeine alone is a dehydrating neurotoxic insecticide, the same as morphine and cocaine. Caffeine toxicity can cause irregular heart rate, tremors, seizures, psychosis, cardiac arrhythmias, stomach upsets, dizziness, mimic amphetamine poisoning and even death.


We know caffeine raises blood pressure
The bottom line? Continuous long-term energy drink consumption → over-stimulates cortisol production → adjusts the way your genes express themselves → blood vessels stay narrowed → raises blood pressure → heart attack, heart failure, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Around 40% of New Zealander deaths every year are from cardiovascular disease. The biggest precursor to this highly preventable death rate is hypertension (high blood pressure). You can start to see how the simplest changes (giving up the energy drinks) will make the biggest difference to your health and longevity.


The good news is that teenagers will give them up when educated about the costs
Telling kids the fallout from energy drink consumption and just how far they'll have to run in order to burn it off stopped them buying the drinks. The trick here is that the education has to happen at the point of purchase or obviously, BEFORE they buy them in the first place. This is good news because it shows it is the education that is missing, not the attitude. Basically this is just another reason why fast-food and fast-drink companies do not like real and genuine impartial nutritional information to be widely available at the point of purchase.


Sara Bleich, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues did a study on young people buying soda/cola/energy/soft/fizzy drinks. The results, reported in the American Journal of Public Health, showed that when kids are educated on how much work it will take to burn off the extra calories from the drink, they seriously thought twice about buying it at all. Kids were told about the calorie amount in the drinks but the real winner was asking them, “Did you know that working off one of these drinks takes about 50 minutes of running?" This reality check is brilliant as being overweight young creates bad habits and poor health for life in most people. Breaking this habit is one powerful step in reversing all the awful health statistics this generation is going to have to deal with. We have a MASSIVE and growing problem with obesity and its related diseases such as diabetes.

As reported by the Otago Daily Times on Thursday Apr 19, 2012.

As reported by Fairfax News on April 19 and 20, 2012.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation and WebMD Health News reported this study by researchers at the University of Sydney on April 4, 2012.

Professor Chris Semsarian quotes as reported by on January 13, 2012.

The 14-year CDC study was published in the Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and the Child Neurology Society, 2011. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that Ischemic stroke hospitalisation rates among adolescents and young adults aged 15-44 went up 37% between 1995 and 2008. Hypertension, diabetes, obesity, lipid disorders and tobacco use increased as well during that time. Researchers analyzed risk factors and comorbidities in patients admitted for strokes with discharge data made available from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. The study concluded that; 30% of patients aged 15-34 and over 50% aged 35-44 had hypertension; 25% of patients 35-44 had diabetes; and 25% of females 15-34, 30% of females 35-44 and 30% of males 15-44 were smokers. As reported by National Underwriter online news service on 1 September 2011.

Study by Naren Gunja, a medical director and toxicologist at the NSW Poisons Information Centre, and Jared Brown, a senior poisons specialist, as published in The Medical Journal of Australia, 2012. Researchers have found that a growing number of people are reporting caffeine toxicity from energy drinks, especially teenagers. Calls regarding caffeinated energy drinks increased from 12 in 2004 to 65 in 2010, with recreational use the most common type of exposure. Adverse reactions and toxicity from energy drinks were primarily linked to caffeine. Teenagers were the most common age group affected, and energy drinks were often consumed with other stimulants, mainly alcohol. As reported on 16 January 2012.

Study by Bleich SN, et al “Reduction in purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages among low-income black adolescents after exposure to caloric information” as published in the American Journal of Public Health, 2011. Sara Bleich, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues found that letting teenagers know exactly what was in their drinks and more importantly, what they would have to do to burn to calories off, cut the purchases by half. Bleich and colleagues collected data on 1,600 beverage sales at four neighborhood stores in low-income areas of Baltimore. They assessed 400 baseline purchases before attempting any intervention, then 400 purchases for each of three specific interventions. As reported by MedPage Today on December 16, 2011.

Posted: Friday 20 April 2012