Death by Coke: Too much of a good thing probably led to NZ mom's death

Natasha Harris' eight children probably would not have lost their mother at age 31 were it not for her addiction to Coca-Cola, which a coroner ruled was a "substantial factor" in her death.

A Kiwi coroner's report released Tuesday concluded a New Zealand mother of eight died from cardiac arrhythmia, most likely brought on by drinking more than two gallons of Coca-Cola per day, the BBC reports.

"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," coroner David Crerar said in his report.

Family members of the 31-year-old, who died in 2010, say she was addicted to the soft drink and would shake without her daily intake. In the months before her death, she complained of nausea, vomiting and a racing heartbeat.

Harris ingested more than two pounds of sugar and 970 milligrams of caffeine from her daily Coke dose. Any amount of caffeine over 500 milligrams is believed to be dangerous. All of Harris' teeth had to be removed because of sugar decay, and at least one of her children was born without tooth enamel.

The autopsy also discovered that Harris, who did not drink alcohol, had an enlarged liver due to excessive sugar consumption and low potassium levels in her blood, which can affect cardiac functioning.

While Crerar called Coca-Cola consumption a "substantial factor" in Harris' death, he said the company could not be held responsible for the health of consumers who drink the beverage in excess. He did urge soft drink companies to offer clearer warnings about the ill effects of sugar and caffeine consumption. He also said Harris' family should have been more proactive in heeding the warning signs that led to her death.

"The fact she had her teeth extracted several years before her death because of what her family believed was Coke-induced tooth decay, and the fact that one or more of her children were born without enamel on their teeth, should have been treated by her, and by her family, as a warning," he said.

Coca-Cola had argued in the case that it could not be proved its drinks led to Harris' death. The soft drink company's Oceania branch said it was disappointed that the coroner found Coca-Cola consumption to be a major factor in Harris' death when he also said that he couldn't be certain excess consumption was solely behind Harris' heart attack, TVNZ reports.

"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," the company said.

"This is contrary to the evidence that showed the experts could not agree on the most likely cause."

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