A woman living in Monaco, near southern France, was taken to a hospital after fainting. She’s 31 years old and a blood test revealed that she had severely low potassium levels. Further testing of her heart’s electrical activity disclosed that she had a condition called long QT syndrome, causing erratic heart beats.
The doctors were perplexed as to why this otherwise healthy woman had heart problems and was fainting. She had no family history of heart difficulties. She didn’t have any hormone problems. Upon questioning her a little further, however, her doctors learned that she had not had any water to drink since the age of 15. Instead she consumed only cola every day – about two liters daily.
After just one week without cola, both the woman’s potassium levels and heart electrical activity returned to normal.
Researchers at the Princess Grace Hospital Center in Monaco went to work searching for similar cases, and surprisingly found six other reports where excessive cola consumption were linked to medical difficulties, including problems with heart rhythm. They noted that drinking too much cola can cause excess water to enter the bowels, leading to diarrhea, which causes a loss of potassium. In addition, high amounts of caffeine consumption can increase urine production and decrease potassium reabsorption. Low levels of potassium can cause problems with heart rhythm.
The researchers stated that cardiologists need to be made aware of the possible connection between cola consumption and potassium loss. Patients discovered to have long QT syndrome should be questioned about their beverage consumption. In addition, they are proposing future studies that will examine whether excessive cola drinkers have lower potassium levels than those who don’t drink cola.
Excessive soda consumption can also lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for heart disease, the researchers said.
The case report was presented at the European Heart Rhythm Association meeting in Athens, Greece. It has not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
FoodFacts.com certainly understands that this particular woman’s cola-drinking habit was quite extreme. But it clearly underscores the concept of soda as a generally unhealthy addition to our diet. Soda has certain inherent nutritional problems – most of the ingredients in any given brand aren’t natural, sugary soda contains high fructose corn syrup and plenty of it, diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners that are linked to a variety of different problems and there are a whole host of controversial items routinely included in soda ingredient lists. This story from Monaco seems to add a new problem directly related to soda consumption. While we recognize that most soda drinkers also consume water and other beverages, this story does stop and cause you to think even more carefully about your beverage habits. Nutritional awareness is so important for all of us … and it’s not just about our food choices, it’s about our beverage choices as well.