After Coca-Cola Addict Mom's Death, Coroner Urges Caffeine Warning

Tuesday, 12 Feb 2013 04:15 PM

By Dale Eisinger

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After confirming that a New Zealand mother of eight died after drinking too much Coca-Cola, the coroner wants the soft-drink maker to put health warnings on its caffeinated products.

Natasha Harris, 31, suffered cardiac arrhythmia brought on by what her family called "an addiction" to the soft drink, ruled Coroner David Crerar.

"I find that, when all of 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,'' Crerar wrote in his report on the 2010 death that was released on Tuesday.

"Natasha Harris died of cardiac arrhythmia," the report continued. "On the balance of probabilities it is more likely than not that the drinking of very large quantities of Coke was a substantial factor that contributed to the development of metabolic imbalances, which gave rise to the arrhythmia."

While Crerar called for the caffeine warning to be added to the soda's label, he added that "Coca-Cola cannot be held responsible for the health of consumers who drink unhealthy quantities of the product."

Harris, a resident of Invercargill, New Zealand's southernmost city, consumed between six and ten liters — about 2.2 gallons — of Coke daily.

The large amount of cola she drank left her with rotted teeth and caused at least one of her children to be born without tooth enamel. If the coroner's report is accurate, she consumed more than 970mg of caffeine and two pounds of sugar each day.

One liter of Coke is 116 percent of the recommended amount of sugar for adults daily.

Harris' partner, Christopher Hodgkinson, told Fairfax NZ News that her habit quickly became an addiction.

''She had no energy and was feeling sick all the time," Hodgkinson said. "She would get up and vomit in the morning. She would get moody and get headaches if she didn't have any Coke and also feel low in energy.''

Paramedics were called to Harris' Glengarry home in February 2010 after Hodgkinson found her gasping for breath, slumped against the wall of her bathroom, seated on the toilet. Ambulance staff was not able to revive her.

A post-mortem examination found her liver was enlarged and full of fat deposits. She also suffered from hypokalemia, a lack of potassium in the blood — all factors attributed to the Coke addiction.

Coca-Cola released a statement disputing Crerar's report.

"The coroner acknowledged that he could not be certain what caused Ms. Harris' heart attack," the release said. "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. This is contrary to the evidence that showed the experts could not agree on the most likely cause."

Related stories:

Coca-Cola to Tackle Obesity for 1st Time in TV Ads

Coca-Cola Obesity Ad Campaign Criticized by Health Advocates

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