The journal reports that excessive cola consumption can cause blood potassium to drop dangerously low. It tells of the curious case of an Australian ostrich farmer who needed emergency care for lung paralysis after drinking 4-10 litres of cola a day. He made a full recovery and was advised to curtail his cola drinking.
‘Curious case’ may seem about right when you read on …
Another example included a pregnant woman who regularly consumed up to three litres of cola a day for the last six years and complained of tiredness, appetite loss and persistent vomiting. A heart trace revealed she had an irregular heartbeat, most likely caused by her low blood potassium levels. Once she stopped drinking so much cola, she made a full and uneventful recovery.
The investigators believe these cases are not atypical and that many people risk problems due to their intake. The BBC, reporting this story on its website, thought fit at this point to add the line, ‘Manufacturers insist the products are safe when consumed in moderation’.
In a commentary to the report, Dr Clifford Packer from the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Centre in Ohio, said: “We have every reason to think that it is not rare. With aggressive mass marketing, super-sizing of soft drinks, and the effects of caffeine tolerance and dependence, there’s very little doubt that tens of millions of people in industrialised countries drink at least 2-3 litres of cola a day. It follows that the serum potassium levels of these heavy cola drinkers are dropping, in some cases, to dangerous low levels.”
Those with an interest in cola who have read this far must be asking, ‘So what is it about cola that causes such potential danger for consumers?’. The answer is in the article. The author of the research paper, Dr Moses Elisaf from the University of Ioannina in Greece, said it appeared that hypokalemia can be caused by excessive consumption of three of the most common ingredients in cola drinks: glucose, fructose and caffeine.
“The individual role of each of these ingredients in the pathophysiology of cola-induced hypokalemia hasn’t been determined and may vary in different patients. However, in most of the cases we looked at for our review, caffeine intoxication was thought to play the most important role. This has been borne out by case studies that focus on other products that contain high levels of caffeine but no glucose or fructose.”
Despite this, he warned that caffeine-free cola products could also cause hypokalemia because the fructose they contain can cause diarrhoea.
“We believe that further studies are needed to establish how much is too much when it comes to the daily consumption of cola drinks.”
Before pointing out that excessive consumption of other caffeine-laden drinks such as coffee may produce similar results, we should pause here to note that the BBC saw fit to add the line, ‘Excessive consumption, according to the report, has already been linked with obesity, diabetes and tooth and bone problems’.
Oh yes, I forgot – cola is always to blame. Even the BBC has to remind its readers that if it wasn’t for cola, there would be only confidently smiling, super-healthy, weightlifting thin people in the world. So here we go again … another study for the sake of a study, focusing on a universally popular product and attempting to add a scare factor with ‘science’.
It’s heartening at this point to see that the BBC had doubts, too, and asked for the opinion of the British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA).
The BBC added: “A spokeswoman from the BSDA said: ‘The examples used in this paper by the IJCP are all very extreme cases – moderate consumption of cola drinks is completely safe and people can continue to enjoy such drinks as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle. The soft drinks industry is committed to encouraging responsible consumption of all its products. Nutrition labelling is included on-pack, so people can make an informed choice about the products they’re drinking.'”
It’s surprising that a respected journal such as the International Journal of Clinical Practice can be so short of subject material that it devotes space and even a cover image to this story. I thought there was a global swine flu pandemic looming? Maybe the sensationalist and even the quasi-medical press have run out of steam on that subject and are seeking a new target.
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