COMMENTARY | Death by Coca Cola? Apparently so. The Associated Press reports that Dan Mornin, testifying at an inquest, said 30-year-old Natasha Harris died from hy pokalemia or critically low potassium levels, caused by a combination of malnutrition and consumption of over 2 gallons a day of Coca Cola.
Harris died in February 2010 of a heart attack. She was a mother of eight children from Invercargill, New Zealand.
“The first thing she would do in the morning was to have a drink of Coke beside her bed and the last thing she would do at night was have a drink of Coke,” said Chris Hodgkinson, Harris’ partner, in a deposition. “She was addicted to Coke.”
Two gallons daily can certainly be considered an addiction. Harris had a history of other addictions, namely her 30 cigarette a day habit. In addition to the Coke and cigarettes, Hodgkinson revealed, Harris ate very little. She reportedly suffered from blood pressure problems, dental issues, a lack of energy, and repeated vomiting. Vomiting, according to Mornin, can be caused by excessive caffeine.
Drinking that much Coca Cola would mean Harris was getting somewhere 800 to 1,000 milligrams daily. In addition, she was taking in more than 4,000 empty calories a day, from high fructose corn syrup. Excessive amounts of sugar can lead to diarrhea, which leaches the body of potassium. Natasha’s eight plus liters of Coke would have contained about 800 grams of sugar. That is nearly three and a half cups.
Experts recommend that people drink less than four liters of fluid-any fluid-each day. Natasha Harris was doubling that recommendation. Excessive fluid can cause cell walls to rupture.
When asked about its product being possibly fatal, The Coca Cola Oceania representative, Karen Thompson, said “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.”
When pressed further, Ms. Thompson claimed that her company is not responsible for Natasha’s death. “We deeply sympathize with the tragic death of Ms Harris, but we are firmly of the view her death was not due to the purchasing of Coca-Cola.”
Hodgkinson disagrees. According to the New Zealand Herald,the family is hoping to get compensation from Coca Cola to help take care of the children Natasha left behind, who have been placed in foster care.
So, what really killed Natasha Harris? Most likely, it was a combination of poor choices, excessive caffeine, sugar, liquid, and tobacco. Her sister, Raelene Finlayson doesn’t blame the Coca Cola Company for Harris’s death. As she said yesterday, “Nobody forced Tasha to drink all that … it’s like anything, we all know anything in moderation is okay.”