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Woman’s Coca-Cola ‘habit’ cited in death

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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Experts say Natasha Harris Coca-Cola habit probably contributed to her death (AP/New Zealand Herald)

When people attribute someone's untimely death to a Coke overdose, they're usually not talking about the world's most popular soda.

But experts in New Zealand say Natasha Harris' 2-gallon-a-day Coca-Cola consumption "probably" contributed to her death. The soda company responded to the alleged connection by noting that even water consumption can be fatal in excessive amounts.

"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," Harris' partner Chris Hodgkinson said in a deposition. "She was addicted to Coke."

Hodgkinson testified that Harris drank between 2.1 gallons and 2.6 gallons of Coke every day.

The 30-year-old Harris died of a heart attack in February 2010. According to New Zealand's Fairfax Media, pathologist Dr. Dan Mornin testified on Thursday that Harris likely suffered from hypokalemia (low potassium levels), which he believes was caused by her overall poor nutrition, including the unusually high levels of Coke consumption.

Though in fairness to the soda manufacturer, it was also revealed that Harris made other questionable health choices before her death, including smoking a reported 30 cigarettes per day and having poor eating habits. Dr. Mornin also said Harris had "toxic levels of caffeine" in her blood, though it's not clear if those levels came exclusively from Coke or from a combination of other sources, including coffee.

Karen Thompson, a spokeswoman for Coca-Cola Oceania, defended the safety of her company's products in a statement:

"We concur with the information shared by the coroner's office that the grossly excessive ingestion of any food product, including water, over a short period of time with the inadequate consumption of essential nutrients, and the failure to seek appropriate medical intervention when needed, can be dramatically symptomatic."

Harris reportedly experienced high blood pressure in the months leading up to her death. Hodgkinson called emergency services and tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but was not able to revive Harris after she collapsed in her home.

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