Home Friday 5 Friday 5: 5 Things We Can Learn From The Woman Who Died Drinking Sodapop

Friday 5: 5 Things We Can Learn From The Woman Who Died Drinking Sodapop

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Oh, you thought just because it was a month ago, that I’d forgotten about this?

Oh, no…I’m just getting caught up!

Heavy drinking may have led to the death of a New Zealand woman — but it wasn’t alcohol she was glugging. It was Coca-Cola, TVNZ reports.


She reportedly drank some 2.2 gallons of the soda every day, AFP notes, a habit that went on for years. Her family called it an “addiction” that resulted in the removal of multiple rotten teeth and the birth of at least one child lacking tooth enamel; her partner said Natasha Harris suffered withdrawal symptoms if she didn’t drink the stuff.

The 31-year-old mother of eight died following a cardiac arrhythmia in February 2010, and the coroner called out Coke in his report, which was released Tuesday.

“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,” the report said.

The examination after her death revealed an enlarged liver with fatty deposits due to too much sugar, a pathologist said. Low potassium in her bloodstream may also have been linked to the soda.

Harris apparently consumed more than two pounds of sugar and 970mg of caffeine a day; experts say even 500mg is dangerous.

Coca-Cola said it was “disappointed” about the coroner’s emphasis on Coke in Harris’ death, though his report did state that the company “cannot be held responsible for the health of consumers who drink unhealthy quantities of the product.”

There are five major takeaways, here. Let’s make it quick:

1) Don’t ever let anyone tell you that sugar doesn’t facilitate addiction. We can clearly see that this is a crock.  There is no way in hell a person can consume so much of one product on a consistent basis, lose teeth, and get to the point where it affects the child they are carrying and still not feel compelled to just hang up the habit. No. Way. At. All.

2) Don’t ever let anyone lie to you about the amount of sugar in this stuff. For goodness sakes, there’s a third of a cup of sugar in your average 20oz of coke. A. Third. Of. A. Cup. Like I said in my column for Ebony this week:

That’s almost enough sugar to make a batch of cookies. It’s more sugar than you’ll find in a pound of apples. A pound of peaches. Two pounds of grapefruit. You could have a salad, a bottle of water, a scone and a pear for less sugar than you’ll find in the 20 oz of tragedy sitting on your desk right now.

In fact, I’m willing to bet that if I sat a 20-ounce glass of iced tea in front of you, right now, that you would not put 18 teaspoons of sugar in it. That’s right – you would not scoop your spoon into a sugar bowl 18 times, no matter how much better the glass of tea would taste with it, simply because it’d make you feel gluttonous.[source]

3) Don’t ever let anyone delude you on the nutritiousness of a damn soft drink, and the fact that it’s lack of nutrition is actually deleterious to your health. “Low potassium in her bloodstream,” to me, is the key – sodium and potassium tend to work with each other in a teeter-totter fashion; too much of one means you need more of the other to ensure they’re always balanced. The problem with pop (it’s pop; I don’t want to hear it) is that there’s salt in it. Sugar, fat, and salt – that processed food trifecta – don’t act alone; they function successfully in concert with at least one other element. With coke (and just about any other soft drink), sugar is paired with salt. If you’re drinking two gallons of the stuff daily – I cannot stress enough just how jarring that is – the amount of salt you’re introducing to your body is unreal. The average “over-salted vegetable” at least has potassium in it naturally to help balance that out; this? Nothing. And that is dangerous.

4) Don’t ever let anyone tell you that drinking sugar can actually fill you up in any way. A habit of drinking multiple 2-liters of coke a day for years tells me that she was also eating food and getting in some semblance of nutrients. She wasn’t subsisting on only coke for years. 2.2 gallons of coke is 3,419 calories. I don’t know about you, but if I have a really ratchet dinner, I wake up the next morning not hungry. In fact, depending on how large my dinner was, it might be a while before I’m actually hungry again. In fact, I’m fairly certain that if you laid 3,419 calories in clean nutritious food out in front of a person, there’s no way in the world they could consume it all, and that includes the dreaded juice and smoothie.

5) Don’t ever let anyone lead you to believe that this couldn’t be you. Addictions are rarely about “just liking the product a lot.” Addictions aren’t even always about the feeling you get from consumption. They’re the perfect storm of an inability to cope with life, an affordable price, and a perpetual need to ignore what you’re doing to yourself by choosing to abuse an item or product. Your product of choice might not be coke – it might not even be one specific product that helps you feed your addiction. But if, in light of what continual consumption of a product is doing to your body, it is still hard for you to give it up, then chances are high that you may have an addiction that you need to address, yourself. And that’s real.

I felt for this women – she clearly has a family who loves her and children who need her, and it’s an awful thing to hear about. It was doubly frustrating to me to hear Coke’s response was more about how “disappointed” they were about being cited as the cause for her arrhythmia, instead of declining to comment and simply wishing her family well. This wasn’t Coke’s opportunity to make its plea for moderation; just have some respect. Good grief.

What’d I miss, y’all?

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Keesha March 22, 2013 - 8:18 PM

This happened 3 yrs ago, not last month 🙂

Erika Nicole Kendall March 22, 2013 - 8:25 PM

From the article:

“The 31-year-old mother of eight died following a cardiac arrhythmia in February 2010, and the coroner called out Coke in his report, which was released Tuesday.”

The article was published February, 2013. While it happened 3 years ago, the coroner’s report – which is what made the story – happened last month. But thanks for the help. 🙂

LP March 23, 2013 - 12:13 AM

I happen to be an employee of The Coca Cola Company; 2 yrs. ago during my physical exam, my cholesterol level was extremely high; repeated the blood work 2 wks. later only to find that it was higher than the 1st. I was sent to a specialist only to be diagnosed with “fatty liver” disease—had never heard of it. After a little internet research learned that a fatty diet as well as consumption of “dark colored” sodas might have been my culprit. Panic stricken, I immediately stopped my 3-4 day soda ADDICTION!! Cut out fast food…the thought of being OBESE & ADDICTED were a slap in the face… REALITY set in… I began juicing, eating healthy, began walking & Zumba….now 60 lbs. lighter, OMG!!! I promised myself that I would no longer be bound foods, drinks, and the sedentary lifestyle I was living probably promoting my own early death. I am so conflicted with working at a place that I can’t support the #1 beverage product. However, I LOVE LIFE!!!

Tanya S March 23, 2013 - 9:10 AM

First, thank you for posting this.

Coke’s response is like any other drug dealer-it’s not our fault the woman who died didn’t use it right. It’s is never the product creators fault, it’s always the user misusing it-even if the manufacturer knows there is an issue, and even tries to market to those that who will abuse their product.

Soda is addictive! I am trying to kick the habit. Some days it works, some days it doesn’t. I can say I’m far more irritable on the days I don’t give in. I won’t give up, but it’s tough. Is cheap, it’s legal, and it’s available virtually everywhere. It’s the perfect drug.

Joi @ Rx Fitness Lady March 23, 2013 - 9:33 AM

I missed it 3 years ago and the coroner’s report so thanks for sharing. I often talk about my issue in healthy living being Dr. Pepper. I am not addicted but I do struggle with stopping completely. I love the way it taste primarily but it’s tough working overnight shift so I get a kick from it about 2-3 days out of my 7 day rotation every other week. Anyway, I would have never imagined someone could drink this much of coke or any soda. I can’t drink coke because it always makes my teeth feel like they are being eaten away…crazy because that actually happened to this woman. This is sad for her and her children. They could have shown a little more respect for her . Great post!


Denise R. March 23, 2013 - 9:42 AM

This is a real tragedy that someone can drink themselves to death with this stuff. Poison.

And reading this, I am so, so, glad that my mother did not allow us to drink soda, err, I mean “pop” growing up. SHE drank it, but would not let us have any. I thought it was something only for grownups!

Therefore, I never developed a taste for it, and very rarely drink it today and If I do, it’s ginger ale; I don’t like Sprite or 7-Up, Coke or Pepsi.

T.R. March 23, 2013 - 12:56 PM

No words. Soda isn’t my habit but I do have some I’m keeping a straight eye on.

Kristina Walters March 23, 2013 - 6:41 PM

I remember reading about that. My parents never let us have any kind of soft drink when I was growing up except for special occasions. It’s funny because it stuck and really all I drink is water and maybe juice on occasion and I am 43. All soda is bad, diet or not.

Christa March 23, 2013 - 6:58 PM

And of course you will NEVER HEAR ABOUT THIS Coke has too much money ‘invested’ in the detriment of America…smh

frannie March 24, 2013 - 5:50 AM

I was completely addicted to Coca Cola, both the original coke and the zero variety. I couldn’t enjoy a single meal without it, my head would hurt if I didn’t have at least three/four a day, and I felt guilty when I had it for breakfast in public – I was ashamed.
I don’t think I even drank water most days.

It was the worst addiction to kick, although I have been clean for eleven months.

Kami March 24, 2013 - 9:30 AM

Yes I gave up soda even though I like sparkling water. I dont even drink the natural soda or energy drinks either. I gave up drinking ginger ale for stomach ache rather have ginger tea. Soda is the toxic stuff on earth.

Whitney March 25, 2013 - 10:44 AM

I am gonna have to once and for all take all of my family off pop. I say pop too Erika..

Chelle July 12, 2013 - 11:48 PM

Can you share how you stopped drinking it? I have been drinking Coke for years and every time I try to stop, I get really bad headaches and go back to it after a day or so. I know it’s bad for me, I just need to learn how to stop.

hidaya October 25, 2013 - 7:09 PM

great article. my 61 yr old mom is addicted to cokes. I cannot remember seeing her drink water, but she always asks for cokes. recently, she was diagnosed with diabetes [type 2]. also, she has arthritis, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, morbidly obese… black women got it bad!

Eva January 7, 2014 - 2:13 PM

I used to drink soda all the time. I stopped when I stopped drinking; I really haven’t drank Coke for 20 years. I drink ginger ale sometimes, but mainly I drink tea and seltzer water.

Melissa Craig June 18, 2014 - 3:10 PM

I noticed you wrote the dreaded juice and smoothie in one sentence.

What are your thoughts on Juicing?!

Erika Nicole Kendall June 18, 2014 - 8:22 PM

Check here and here.

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