There has been a reported case of a New Zealand lady who died after drinking more than eight litres a day of soft drink, in particular Coca-Cola.

“Otago-Southland coroner David Crerar did not make any preliminary findings after yesterday’s inquest, however pathologist Dan Mornin said he believed 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,” TVNZ reported.

“When asked by Crerar 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.”

Coca-Cola was quick to offer a statement:

“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.

“We believe that all foods and beverages can have a place in a balanced and sensible diet combined with an active lifestyle,”

Sugar has by far the biggest impact on the body. In Australia, one litre of Coca-Cola contains 106 grams of cane sugar. The recommended daily intake of sugar is 80g or less. If you drink two 600ml bottles daily, it’s easy to see how this level can rapidly creep upwards.

These high sugar levels have multiple impacts on the body.

Sugar creates a high load on the body’s glucose control systems. As the main sugar in Australian Coke comes from sugar cane, there is a double effect. Cane sugar is a mix of the natural sugar molecules fructose and glucose.

Glucose can be burned by muscle, the brain and by red blood cells. Fructose, however, is only able to be used at the level of the liver. There it is converted to sugar stores and once they are filled it is turned into fat.

As fat is deposited in the liver, it makes its function harder and the liver can be placed under strain. This is called “fatty liver disease” and is becoming so common that some doctors are concerned it will be associated with the next wave of people requiring liver transplants.

Fat increases also result in weight gain and obesity.

High levels of circulating sugar also force the pancreas to release higher and higher levels of insulin to bring the sugar levels down. Over time the body does not respond to the insulin as easily and diabetes can develop.

High levels of insulin can decrease potassium in the blood which can lead to changes in heart rhythm as was documented in the death of the lady discussed above.

High levels of fats in the liver, sugar in the blood and increasing resistance to insulin can lead to deposits of fat in the arteries which decrease blood delivery to the heart and brain.

These can cause heart attacks and strokes if the blood flow is cut off completely.

High levels of caffeine can also increase the risk of dangerous heart rhythms.

Coca-Cola also contains high levels of phosphoric acid which, when consumed on a regular basis, can increase the stomach’s acidity. This can increase the chance of developing stomach ulcers and slow the healing of ulcers already present.

High levels of phosphoric acid are also associated with disruption of bone formation and can lead to brittle bone structure. Phosphoric acid can also lead to premature tooth decay. Many dentists recommend no more then one can of Coke a day.

Moderation is the key. One or two cans a day is unlikely to cause major damage, however, if your consumption is increasing you could be putting yourself at risk.

For patients who are trying to lose weight, I recommend giving up all soft drink. The high sugar content offers no true nutritional value and is counterproductive to weight loss.

Good alternatives can be tea and coffee with no added sugars, or occasional diet soft drinks. However, the best option is water. If you are looking for flavours, try adding sliced fruit or berries. Your body will thank you for it.

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