Woman’s 10-litre a day Coke habit factor in death

A New Zealand woman’s 10-litre a day Coca Cola habit was a major factor in her death, a coroner found. And now the coroner is urging the soft drink giant to put health warnings on its caffeinated products.

Natasha Harris, a 30-year-old mother of eight from Invercargill in southern New Zealand, drank huge amounts of the fizzy beverage for years before her death in Feb 2010, coroner David Crerar found.

He said Ms Harris suffered from a number of health conditions which could be linked to the “extreme” amounts of Coke she downed, playing a role in the cardiac arrhythmia that finally killed her.

“I find that when all the available evidence is considered, were it not for the consumption of very large quantities of Coke by Natasha Harris, it is unlikely that she would have died when she died and how she died,” he found.

He said Harris’s Coke habit “was a substantial factor that contributed to the development of the metabolic imbalances which gave rise to the arrhythmia”.

A pathologist found that Harris, who did not drink alcohol, had an enlarged liver due to fatty deposits caused by excessive sugar consumption and low potassium levels in her blood, which can affect cardiac function.

Her family said she complained of a “racing heart” before her death.

“[She would] go crazy if she ran out... she would get the shakes, withdrawal symptoms, be angry, on edge and snappy,” her mother-in-law Vivien Hodg-kinson told the inquest into her death last year.

Harris’s family told the inquest she had all her teeth removed after they went rotten due to excessive soft drink consumption and one of her children was born with no teeth enamel.

Coca-Cola Oceania said in a statement that experts had been unable to agree on what caused Harris’s heart attack and Crerar had acknowledged that he could not be certain what was behind it.

“Therefore we are disappointed that the coroner has chosen to focus on the combination of Ms Harris’ excessive consumption of Coca-Cola, together with other health and lifestyle factors, as the probable cause of her death,” it read.

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