Correlation ain't the same as causation, but I can't really blame folks for thinking that drinking two gallons of Coke each day had a little something to do with 30-year-old Natasha Marie Harris's heart attack death.
Harris' partner, Chris Hodgkinson, testified at the inquest that Harris drank between 8 and 10 liters -- 2.1 and 2.6 gallons -- of regular Coke every day, according to the Associated Press.
"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," Hodgkinson said. "She was addicted to Coke."
Harris reportedly had some other unhealthy habits. Hodgkinson said she ate little and smoked about 30 cigarettes a day. In the months before her death, she experienced blood pressure problems and lacked energy, he said.A pathologist testified that Harris's death was caused in part by severe hypokalemia -- a lack of potassium in the blood.
Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told HealthPop that drinking too much soda can cause hypokalemia because of several factors, one of which is called "fructose induced osmotic diarrhea." Too much fructose and sugar may lead to diarrhea and during diarrhea the body loses potassium.
What's more, Glatter said, sugar stimulates insulin release which also drives potassium into the body's cells, causing potassium levels in the bloodstream to fall. Then there's the caffeine, which is known as a "beta-agonist," that also drives potassium into cells and away from the blood.
"So you're getting a double whammy from caffeine as well as the sugar," Glatter told HealthPop. "You're drinking three to nine liters a day of this stuff, you're going to have significant issues."
"I never thought about it," Hodgskinson told the Herald of soda making Harris ill. "It's just a soft-drink, just like drinking water.Not quite. Pro tip: You know what's just like drinking water? DRINKING WATER.