Coca Cola didn’t kill 30-year-old New Zealand mother , excess did
Marni Soupcoff Apr 20, 2012,National Posthttp://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2012/04/20/marni-soupcoff-coca-cola-didnt-kill-30-year-old-new-zealand-mother-samanatha-harris-excess-did/
Yet another story about junk food and drink has me in a lather; this one is the sad tale of a young New Zealand mother who died of a cardiac arrest two years ago, apparently as a result of cardiac arrhythmia. She seems also to have had an extreme electrolyte imbalance.
It is agreed by all the reports and comments I have read about Natasha Harris that the 30-year-old woman was not exactly leading what those glossy exercise and nutrition magazines like to call “a healthy lifestyle.” (Her story is in the news now because an inquest into her death was held this week.)
Ms. Harris is said to have smoked heavily, eaten little food and consumed eight to ten litres of regular Coke every day.
To get an idea of what a huge volume of pop that is, consider that ten litres of liquid would fill approximately forty cups and weigh about 22 pounds.
People have died from drinking lesser amounts of water in similar periods of time, particularly when they have not been taking in enough nutrients. It’s simply too much liquid for the body to handle while maintaining its balance. Marathoners who rehydrate excessively during a race often find themselves in hospital for similar reasons.
But here’s the frustrating part: Many of the stories about Harris mention Coke or pop in the headline, as though this were a story of a woman dying because of a poor choice of beverage.
ABC News: “New Zealand Woman’s Coca-Cola habit cited in death.” Vancouver Sun: “Soft drink cited as factor in NZ woman’s death: Reports.” CTV.ca: “Woman’s daily cola habit likely led to death: docs.” The Week Magazine: “Addicted to cola: Did soda kill a mother of eight?” And so on.
Ms. Harris’s problem was not that she drank Coke. It was that she lived unhealthily and drank around five times more liquid than is recommended for most human beings.
The fact that Ms. Harris’s partner, Chris Hodgkinson, is calling for warning labels to be placed on all soft drinks is, if not sensible, at least understandable.
Less excusable is that a professor at New Zealand’s National Addiction Centre would use the unhappy occasion of Ms. Harris’s inquest to histrionically attack pop producers and compare them to drug dealers. Professor Doug Sellman said the idea of putting warning labels on unhealthy food and drink, including pop, “is being very strongly resisted by the food industry. It’s a bad idea if you’re into drug dealing. It’s just a good idea if you’re into health.”
By Mr. Sellman’s logic, there should be warning labels on our kitchen taps, since consuming as much water as Ms. Harris did pop would be similarly dangerous.
As New Zealand Food and Grocery Council chief executive Katherine Rich said, “The truth is there would not be a warning label on the planet that would have dealt with this extreme consumption. You can’t label for extremes.” I suppose you could require all pop to bear a label explaining that drinking 28 cans a day can be hazardous to your health, but what would be the point? No one thinks drinking that much pop is healthy. Not even, I would venture to guess, Ms. Harris when she was alive.