Doctors have issued a warning about excessive cola consumption after noticing an increase in the number of patients suffering from hypokalaemia, a condition that can cause muscle problems. Reporting in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, the researchers explained that the symptoms can range from mild weakness to profound paralysis.
"We are consuming more soft drinks than ever before and a number of health issues have already been identified including tooth problems, bone demineralization and the development of metabolic syndrome and diabetes" said researcher Dr Moses Elisaf, from the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Ioannina, Greece. "Evidence is increasing to suggest that excessive cola consumption can also lead to hypokalaemia, in which the blood potassium levels fall, causing an adverse effect on vital muscle functions."
The patients in the study consumed from two to nine liters of cola a day. They included two pregnant women who were admitted with low potassium levels. The first, a 21 year-old woman, was consuming up to three liters of cola a day and complained of fatigue, appetite loss and persistent vomiting. An electrocardiogram also revealed she had a heart blockage, while blood tests showed she had low potassium levels. The second also had low potassium levels and was suffering from increasing muscular weakness. It turned out she had been drinking up to seven liters of cola a day for the last 10 months.
In a commentary on the paper, Dr Clifford Packer from the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Centre in Ohio relates the strange case of the ostrich farmer who returned from the Australian outback with muscle weakness. He had been drinking four liters of cola a day for the last three years and drank up to 10 liters a day when he was in the outback, causing a rapid reduction in his potassium levels.
It appears that hypokalaemia 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 hypokalaemia has not been determined and may vary in different patients," says Dr Elisaf.
"Although most patients recover when they stop drinking cola and take potassium supplements, cola-induced chronic hypokalaemia can make them more susceptible to potentially fatal complications, such as an irregular heartbeat," Dr Elisaf added. "In addition, excessive consumption of any kind of cola can lead to a range of health problems including fatigue, loss of productivity and muscular symptoms that vary from mild weakness to profound paralysis."
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Source: International Journal of Clinical Practice