Death of a Coke “Addict” Spurs Revelations

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Childhood Obesity News is very much about the existence of actual, literal addictiveness in manufactured food-like substances. Another favorite topic is Coca-Cola. This irresistible headline combines both:

Coca-Cola Addiction a Factor in Woman’s Death

A 30-year-old New Zealand woman, Natasha Harris, who drank between 8 and 10 liters (2 to 2 1/2 gallons) of Coca-Cola a day died in February of 2010 of a heart attack. A pathologist has ruled that her excessive daily soda intake ‘probably’ played a part in her death… The first thing she would do in the morning was to have a drink of Coke beside her bed and the last thing she would do at night was have a drink of Coke. She was addicted to Coke.

That eyewitness testimony about the dead woman’s habits was given by her partner, and Kristin Chew also quotes Harris’ mother-in-law as saying she would “go crazy if she ran out… [S]he would get shakes, withdrawal symptoms, be angry, on edge and snappy.” One theory is that the death was caused by a low potassium level, or hypokalemia, which can drive the rhythm of the heart into abnormality. Chew cites a study confirming the adverse effect of hypokalemia on necessary muscle functions, which can lead to anything from a mild weakness to profound paralysis.

Predictably, the Coca-Cola corporation reminded the world that a person can die from drinking too much of anything, even water. Of course, Chew was not the only person to cover this story. The interesting thing is that her short article stimulated more than 150 comments from readers.

One person suggests an autopsy before jumping to conclusions. One seems to hint that being the mother of eight children could have negatively impacted the woman’s health. Others specifically blame sugar, caffeine or aspartame as the active, addictive ingredient. Someone even coins the word “overaddicted.” A few readers do not have much compassion to spare, and one say it was “suicide plain and simple.”

Many comments are variations on the theme of how adults have to be responsible for themselves, and many commentators offered their own experiences with this addiction:

I switched from coke to pepsi, and do have an addiction to soda.

I have been drinking Pepsi for at least 40 years and I have a hard time trying to stop. It may sound stupid but it’s true!! I get the shakes and get sick and bitchy if I don’t have one in the morning!

I will be one of the first to say that sodas are addictive…

I became addicted to Coke. When I went to work and moved out into my own apartment in 1966, I could no longer afford my habit, and the withdrawal was not pleasant!

Anyone in their right mind can tell that soda products… are addictive. Look at what happens when people who are used to having them on a daily basis STOP drinking them for a period of time… they go through the same classic withdrawal symptoms that anyone with an addiction go through…

Years ago, probably 30 or so, I decided to give up drinking coca-cola. I did not drink it everyday, and certainly not to the extent that this young woman did, but I can tell you that I went through withdrawal for about a week. I was irritable, shakey and so it went.

Yes Coke is addictive… and in my experience coming off Coke is worse the coming off anti-depressants.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Coca-Cola Addiction a Factor in Woman’s Death,”, 04/20/12
Image by Mustafa Sayed, used under its Creative Commons license.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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