back to article Kiwi Coroner says Coca-Cola helped kill woman

New Zealand’s Coroner for Dunedin, David Cerar, has reportedly found excessive consumption of Coca-Cola helped to kill a woman. Natasha Harris, a 31-year old resident of the southern city Invercargill, died last year. The Coroner's report, which was sent to The Reg by the New Zealand Justice Department, says Harris’ partner …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Not just Coke

    Drink as little as six litres of plain old water in a few hours and you may die of water intoxication.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby
      Facepalm

      Re: Not just Coke

      It was throughout the day.

      But damn. I started to wean back after doing 2+ liters of diet coke a day.

      (And its probably my addiction to caffeine that made it difficult to diagnose my ADD until I was 40 )

      Had she switched from Coke to diet... things might have been different.

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: Not just Coke (@ IMG)

        Small Point: caffeine will make it difficult to diagnose ADD.. mainly because it treats it. Caffeine works in a similar manner to Ritalin and Adderall, as such it is an excellent treatment for mild ADD.

        1. Beachrider

          Why is the tobacco aspect buried in the article?

          The tobacco consumption is substantial, too. Too many times, the collateral damage from smoking is glossed over by coroners with 'agendas'. I had a parent that died of smoking-induced lung cancer and the death-certificate only indicated cancer. A pack and a half certain contributed to this death, but they want to talk about Coke because it gets headlines in the press.

          Smoking is killing people. Why doesn't it appear on more death certificates?

          1. Martin Budden Silver badge
            Childcatcher

            Why are the missing teeth missing from the article?

            Her teeth had all dissolved away, and at least one of her children was born without enamel!

            If she hadn't already bred she'd be up for a Darwin Award.

        2. Ian Michael Gumby
          Boffin

          @Swarthy Re: Not just Coke (@ IMG)

          Uhm yup that is why I wasn't diagnosed until I was 40. ;-)

          My addiction to caffeine and the fact that I started to take harder courses in high school (requiring more focus and interest) cause a dramatic improvement in my GPA.

          While some joke about ADD, its both a blessing and a curse.

    2. tmTM

      Idiots

      Will always surprise you with new and inventive ways to top themselves.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Happy

        Re: Idiots

        And other idiots will spew bullshit about the obvious, to "fix their misunderstandings" about reality.

        "Coroner Cerar will issue recommendations to the effect that soft drink bottle labels should more clearly explain how much caffeine they contain and the dangers of excessive consumption. ®"

        Sounds about as smart as printing, "You must not eat your shit from the toilet bowl" on the toilet paper.

        Treating ADHD with mild doses of Caffeine is a good thing.....

        But so is good food, adequate rest, plenty of exercise and a stimulating environment.

  2. asdf

    wow

    Probably wouldn't have even made it to 30 here in the States. Unlike most of the rest of the world which uses sugar cane in Coke here they use the cheaper high fructose corn sugar which has some evidence of being even worse for you than sugar cane.

  3. Busby
    FAIL

    Coroner Cerar will issue recommendations to the effect that soft drink bottle labels should more clearly emphasise the dangers of excessive consumption. ®

    Because of course if the warning was there then this idiotic woman would have consumed less. Be one of the first to admit that it's fizzy sugar water of no nutritional value and far too much sugar. But I don't think blaming the manufacturer is the way to go abusing any product to this extent (even tap water for that matter) is liable to lead to health issues. This woman obviously hard serious issues beyond the help of better drinks labelling.

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  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Somehow I don't feel sorry for her..

    She had 8 kids by 31, they were apparently being born with issues due to her insanely poor diet and health.

    10 litres of coke a day, 30 a day cigarettes and 8 kids.

    The planet is a better place now she's dead, no doubt.

    1. Thorne

      Re: Somehow I don't feel sorry for her..

      And with eight kids she can't even win a Darwin award....

      1. Turtle

        @Thorne

        "And with eight kids she can't even win a Darwin award...."

        That's harsh. I upvoted it.

        1. Psyx
          Facepalm

          Re: @Thorne

          When her kids were born without enamel on their fucking teeth you'd think she'd have cottoned on.

          Fucking moron.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Thorne

            I think there might have been more concern about her children being born with teeth in the first place... highly unusual - teeth don't normally start to make an appearance until some time after birth!

            1. Psyx
              Facepalm

              Re: @Thorne

              You can tell I'm not a parent, can't you!?!

              Why on earth did a story mention the enamel thing then?

              1. lglethal Silver badge
                WTF?

                Re: @Thorne

                This report also missed the fact (mentioned on the BBC) that all of her teeth fell out over a year ago...

                Only thing I can think is Moron.

                And maybe that her partner should be held liable, because if my partner started to do something incredibly stupid and dangerous to her healththen I'd be stepping in their quick smart to try and stop it...

                1. Phil W
                  Headmaster

                  Re: @Thorne

                  "then I'd be stepping in their quick smart to try and stop it"

                  What is your partner's "quick smart" and how do you step in it?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Somehow I don't feel sorry for her..

      Sadly it sounds as if the kids might be better off too, anyone who drinks that much coke is sure to feed it to their kids...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coke contains 106 grams of cane sugar per 100 litre
    Sounds pretty safe to me?

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    WTF?

    "it is unlikely that she would have died when she died and how she died"

    So it would have been more likely that she might have died a bit earlier or later and in a somewhat different matter, probably boringly so. Is this like a less-tasteful version of the parrot skit?

  8. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Unhappy

    "....with a safe level of the latter being 400 milligrams"

    Additionally, that is an alarming item to read in an El Reg newstory.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "....with a safe level of the latter being 400 milligrams"

      ....So much wrong with that.

      300-400mg of caffeine is the ceiling dose without side-effects in most people. Considering that a fair few "pharmaceutical miracles" are considered safe with side-effects that make jitters, sleeplessness, and an upset tummy look like, well, jitters, sleeplessness, and an upset tummy; "safe" is a very loosely defined word here. Better to say that the toxic dose of caffeine is approx. 10g (depending on tolerance and body mass - ~175mg/kg) Which this gal was nowhere close to. 400mg of caffeine would be lethal to someone weighing in at 2.5kg, I presume she weighed a bit more than that.

      She didn't die from caffeine or smoking. She kicked the bucket due to malnutrition. The caffeine probably didn't help, but as others have said, if she were drinking root beer (No caffeine, slightly less sugar) with the same exclusivity and not eating, she still would have died. Possibly sooner from starvation rather than malnutrition.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: "....with a safe level of the latter being 400 milligrams"

        Agreed. "... a safe level" is nearly meaningless in this context. And Cerar's vilification of Coca-Cola is equally rubbish. I hate the stuff myself, but this is clearly a case of malnutrition exacerbated by smoking and other unhealthy behavior. I suspect the caffeine aggravated the eventually fatal arrhythmia (I'm assuming Cerar got that bit right), but singling it out is a bit like blaming the gas pedal when someone dies in an auto accident. I know the Reg publishes this sort of thing for the fun of it (and it is in Bootnotes), but really, Sharwood could have been a tad more critical.

  9. Herby

    Then there is the local soda machine...

    Which just a few hours ago dispensed not one, but TWO nice 20 oz plastic bottles when I asked for only one. Having finished the first, my bladder has performed its function and awaits draining.

    No cigarettes or 8 kids for me, but geeze, 9 liters, a day! Give me a break, any liquid in that amount on a daily basis would finish one off!

    1. Turtle

      Re: Then there is the local soda machine...

      "Give me a break, any liquid in that amount on a daily basis would finish one off!"

      There was some girl who dies as a result of a promotional contest to see how much water people could drink in a given amount of time (I'm too lazy to look up the details though).

      Then there's this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Schiavo from which I cite:

      Her medical chart contained a note that "she apparently has been trying to keep her weight down with dieting by herself, drinking liquids most of the time during the day and drinking about 10–15 glasses of iced tea." Upon admission to the hospital, she was noted as suffering from hypokalemia (low potassium levels): her serum potassium level was an abnormally low 2.0 mEq/L (the normal range for adults is 3.5–5.0 mEq/L). Her sodium and calcium levels were normal. Electrolyte imbalance is often caused by drinking excessive fluids. A serious consequence of hypokalemia can be heart rhythm abnormalities, including sudden arrhythmia death syndrome."

      Also see http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57367638-10391704/british-teen-stacey-irvine-hospitalized-after-eating-nothing-but-chicken-nuggets-for-15-years/.

      Moral: Some people are so fucking stupid it isn't even funny.

      1. Miek
        Linux

        Re: Then there is the local soda machine...

        "Hold your wee for a wii" was the show/stunt

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6261509.stm

        1. Turtle

          @Miek: Re: Then there is the local soda machine...

          Thank you!

    2. Martin Budden Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Then there is the local soda machine...

      Yes, a lot of liquid! Explains why she died while sitting on the toilet.

      Fail icon is for stupid dead woman, not for any commentard.

  10. Scott 26

    As a fellow Kiwi, I can't help but think "oh well... Darwin Awards, and all that", but she spawned 8 brats... ffs.

    So all I can think is "what a dumbass she is/was, and so is her family"

    1. elderlybloke
      Paris Hilton

      8 more mentaly handicapped for us

      Scott 26 ,

      Unfortunate that there are lots of people who seem to drink large quantities of Coke.

      I watch the trolleys at the local Supermarket(PaknSave) and lots of them are piled up with Coca-Cola and that rubbish cheap white Bread.

  11. Irk
    Windows

    Forget the warnings on Coke, why don't they post warnings on the cigarettes she was puffing away at every day?

    What do you mean they already have warning labels on those? Are you telling me that warning labels don't do a thing to dissuade crazy addicts from consuming to their bitter ends? Nonsense.

    1. Thorne

      "Forget the warnings on Coke, why don't they post warnings on the cigarettes she was puffing away at every day?"

      They could put her lovely toothless smile on Coke bottles as a warning like cigarettes. That will cut down consumption...

      1. dotdavid

        "They could put her lovely toothless smile on Coke bottles as a warning like cigarettes. That will cut down consumption"

        Why would it? Her photo only proves you can get like that when you drink 10 litres of the stuff a day, after all, which isn't the norm. It proves nothing about lesser consumption, so why should it discourage people who drink less?

    2. Don Jefe

      Re:

      Yes she was stupid. However, crazy and addict can't automatically be lumped together.

  12. peter 45
    Alert

    "hardly ate, usually skipping breakfast, eating only small lunches and seldom partaking in an evening meal. She would often vomit upon waking in the morning. She was also a 30-a-day smoker."

    But I am guessing that CocaCola will be the target of all the Lawyers now doorsteping the relatives with promises of untold riches

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      hardly ate

      Eating's kind of a pain when you don't have teeth. Much easier to have something to drink instead.

  13. Eddy Ito

    What?

    Let me get this straight, in her 10-11 kg of cola daily diet she put down of roughly 1 kg of sugar at roughly 4,000 calories. If I edge just over half of that for more than a few days in a row it shows immediately on the scale and that includes a 70-80 minute workout 3-4 times a week. Maybe the caffeine upped her metabolism enough to prevent her from becoming an oblate spheroid and I imagine battling a byte of brats burned off a bit as well.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      Happy

      Upvoted

      for the charming alliterative metaphor, "battling a byte of brats"

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Upvoted

        > for the charming alliterative metaphor, "battling a byte of brats"

        You missed: "battling a byte of brats burned off a bit as well."

        :-)

    2. Esskay
      Thumb Up

      "a byte of brats"

      I've often wondered what the collective noun for a large quantitiy of cracker spawn is.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time to sell...

    ...your Coke stock.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crane operator

    He brought HOW much with him at the beginning of the day? Forget getting fat, I want to know whether he was refilling the empty bottles during the day or 'making it rain' for the poor schlubs on the ground?

  16. Khaptain Silver badge

    Diabetes

    How did she manage to avoid diabetes after consuming so much sugar ? ( I was under the presumption that large sugar intake and Diabetes (type 2) were related).

    Also , as much as I don't like Coca Cola and the advertising world, I think it would be unfair to blame them for the stupidity of this woman.

    This woman had serious psychological problems not Colca Cola problems.

    Coca Cola should to some extent be responsable for the tooth decay problem though.... I agree with the other poster that said pictures of "severe tooth decay" should be displayed on the bottle.

    1. Turtle

      Re: Diabetes

      "How did she manage to avoid diabetes after consuming so much sugar ? ( I was under the presumption that large sugar intake and Diabetes (type 2) were related)."

      Good question. But I don't recall seeing in the story the length of time she was on the, uh, training regimen. Diabetes does take some time to develop, so the "length of time on training regimen" x "percent of amount of Coca-Cola ingested compared to the quantity needed to induce diabetes in a smoker" further multiplied by an age coefficient probably equals a value under the necessary threshold.

      Probably.

    2. Wyrdness
      Devil

      Re: Diabetes

      She successfully avoided diabetes by dying of a heart attack first.

      1. Great Bu
        Boffin

        Re: Diabetes

        She probably avoided diabetes by not having a genetic tendency to developing diabetes.

        Diabetes is not a disease that you catch from a high sugar intake or from being a fat fuck.

        It is a disease that you are genetically pre-disposed to develop but (in the case of type II diabetes) has varying severity. The level of severity is adversely affected by your sugar intake and level of wappitude so it is perfectly possible for two otherwise identical individuals (with a genetic tendency* to type II diabetes) to have different levels of compromise from the condition - one with a 'healthy' diet and active lifestyle may never notice the condition whereas one with a coke 'n' couch** lifestyle may well be crippled by diabetic side effects from an early age.

        However, a person with none of the genetic predisposition to diabetes can chod down on as much sweet sweet sugar as they like and never develop diabetes.

        * I say genetic tendency because it is a multi-factorial inheritance aetiology so you also get variation in severity from person to person depending on which out of the various factors they have in their genome.

        **Choice of champions.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Diabetes

          Kind of correct. It's more to do with how much insulin your pancreas can be forced to churn out before it gives up the ghost, there is a genetic component to the amount of abuse it can take, the amount of abuse itself is obviously important. Plenty of people can have a predisposition to developing type II diabetes without actually succumbing to it by not forcing refined sugars down their throat, and conversely, those without such a predisposition can damage their pancreas through prolonged excessive blood glucose levels. The western diet generally has too much refined sugar in it, hence the current 'epidemic' of diabetes, where a significant proportion of people are stressing their pancreases beyond the point where they can cope. This is hardly surprising given the fact that we didn't evolve on a diet of refined sugar.

          1. Great Bu
            Boffin

            Re: Diabetes

            Kind of correctish....

            Type I diabetes is caused by a failure to produce insulin in the pancreas (as you desribe). This is usually diagnosed early in life (at puberty or thereabouts) as this is when the pancreas starts to be more stressed and gives up the ghost.

            Type II diabetes is caused by (still not that well understood) failures in the insulin receptors on other cells of the body (notably fat, muscle and liver cells) so whilst the pancreas is still producing plenty of insulin, the body is not reacting to it appropriately (later on you can get insulin production falling off but this is more often than not caused by the individuals' natural pancreatic insulin production being suppressed by the treatment insulin they are taking to supplement their natural production as a consequence of their diabetes).

            Both types are exacerbated by poor diet and high wapness but neither are caused by them.

            The refinedness or lack thereof of sugar intake is somewhat irrelevant other than refined sugar can usually be consumed in greater quantities than other types as it is more concentrated and quickly absorbed into the blood (e.g. you only have to drink a liter of coke to get the same sugar as 4 apples and the apple sugar is absorbed over 1-2 hours instead of the coke sugar's 15-30 minutes) - the height of the peak blood sugar level attained after eating is what causes all the problems arising from diabetes.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I agree

    Its disgusting, if I didn't know better I'd say that "Big Soda" have a secret deal with "Big Pharma" and "Big Medica" to sell expensive dental care to "victims".

    Sure, put warnings on the bottle, works well for cigs.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I agree

      To be fair, I stopped smoking because of the warnings that they put on packs of cigs. I was only an occasional smoker and knew about the dangers since day one. I was never really that concerned until I would see all the nasty images on the front of packs of cigs. It was enough to make me give up.

  18. TeeCee Gold badge
    Coat

    9 litres of coke and 30 fags a day.

    I can see the dietary deficiency in there. No alcohol.

    If only she'd put some Bacardi in the coke......

    1. Turtle

      Re: 9 litres of coke and 30 fags a day.

      "I can see the dietary deficiency in there. No alcohol."

      It is physically painfully to laugh that much. Funniest comment that I have *ever* read on this site.

  19. John Savard Silver badge

    Sorry State

    It's a pitty that in today's litigious climate, and in today's world of the nanny state, Coca-Cola felt compelled to issue a denial. Of course a sugary drink - and with phosphoric acid, which dissolves apatite, to boot - can cause problems if not used responsibly. Does that mean people should have to be legal adults before they can buy soft drinks, or that they should only be sold from behind the counter? Extreme cases are extreme cases; should all overweight (never mind fat) people be institutionalized, so they can't overeat any more?

  20. Andyf
    WTF?

    So, she "hardly ate, usually skipping breakfast, eating only small lunches and seldom partaking in an evening meal. She would often vomit upon waking in the morning. She was also a 30-a-day smoker.", but they're blaming 10l of Coke a day for her death? Is the Coroner on a backhander from the family for whatever undeserved payout they think they're going to get?

    It was probably only the sugar content in the coke that was keeping her going at all with that diet.

    1. Psyx

      Yeah, but if she hadn't have had the Coke, she'd have had to actually have eaten food. Ergo, it was the Coke.

      For example, if I didn't want to sleep, I'd eventually fall asleep. If I took Amphetamine and never slept, I'd eventually drop dead. Clearly, the Coroner would rightly blame them Amphetamine.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        @Psyx

        It would probably be the sleep deprivation that killed you rather than the amphetamines, as long as you didn't acutely overdose. This would happen in less time than you would think. Google experiments on sleep deprivation for some interesting reading on the subject...

        1. Benjol
          Trollface

          Re: @Psyx

          "Google experiments on sleep deprivation"

          You had me for a minute there, I thought 'experiments' was the verb'

        2. Psyx
          Thumb Up

          Re: @Psyx

          But the coroner would write it up as the Amphetamine*, still. New Scientist are also doing a special feature on sleep this week, I notice.

          *The plural for Amphetamine is Amphetamine

          1. kain preacher

            Re: @Psyx

            Actually no the corner would not.

            1. Psyx

              Re: @Psyx

              "Re: @Psyx

              Actually no the corner would not."

              Really, because my understanding was that if drugs (inc beer) are found in someone's system after death the official statistics list the death as 'Heroin/Alcohol/Whatever' related?

              It's why our 'drug related deaths' figures are such a massive crock of poop. According to the Home Office, if I were to be high/drunk and then died because I did something stupid or was involved in an accident, it would be 'drug related'. This is also how so many deaths are listed as being 'drug related' for drugs which have a LD50 measured in kilograms!

          2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: @Psyx

            Actually, the generic term for molecules with the amphetamine backbone is 'amphetamines', which is the only case I can think of where you would pluralise it anyway.

            For example, free base amphetamine, amphetamine sulphate (speed), methamphetamine (crystal meth) and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, or ecstasy), along with others are collectively known as amphetamines.

            My original pluralisation of the word was a typo. I am prone to them.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Yeah, but if she hadn't have had the Coke, she'd have had to actually have eaten food.

        Have you never heard of eating disorders?

        There's little reason to suppose that she would have started eating food had she been denied Coca-Cola as a substitute; or that if she did, it would have been nutritious food.

        The Coca-Cola consumption was a symptom of the underlying problem, not its cause.

  21. Bush_rat
    Facepalm

    9 Litres a Day?

    "She was also a 30-a-day smoker."

    For f*ck sake, did she want to die?

  22. Magnus_Pym

    Supersize vs superskinny

    Anyone seen that? More often than not the killingly bad diets on both ends of the spectrum involve large amounts of branded cola beverage. Co-incidence? I don't think so.

  23. theblackhand

    A little more background...

    From http://www.odt.co.nz/your-town/invercargill/206172/family-hopes-coke-addicts-death-will-be-lesson-others

    "The family was hoping to gain compensation from Coca-Cola for the children, who were now in care. "

    "Mr Hodgkinson said he had known Ms Harris since she was 16. She had always drunk Coke, but in the last seven or eight years she had increased her habit from several 1.5-litre bottles up to five bottles a day. "

    "All her teeth had been removed because they were rotting out, causing a dentist to remark about drinking too much Coke. "

    "Mr Crerar (the coroner) also suggested that even if Coke bottles had warnings labels on them, Ms Harris may not have heeded the advice, given she was a smoker, and cigarette packets carried health warnings. "

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: A little more background...

      When thinking about the family, the word "Scum" comes to mind...

      1. Esskay

        Re: A little more background...

        I fail to see why Coke should give compensation here. When your dentist says "Gee, maybe you should let up of the coke, hun?" As he's pulling rotting teeth out of your face, you should probably take that as a hint to cut down a bit.

        If I ate 5 jars of peanut butter a day, and nothing else, I'd be a fucking moron to try and blame Kraft for making me a fat turd.

        People need to take responsibility for their own stupidity.

        1. Thorne

          Re: A little more background...

          "I fail to see why Coke should give compensation here. When your dentist says "Gee, maybe you should let up of the coke, hun?" As he's pulling rotting teeth out of your face, you should probably take that as a hint to cut down a bit."

          At least she'll never have to see that smug bastard of a dentist again...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2.25l /Day ?

    Coke gets such a bad rap.

    It's my poison of choice at work. Anywhere between 2-5 33cl cans a day.

    Better than gut-rot coffee-machine coffee any day of the week.

    Diet/Zero Coke? That's for pussies. You might as well put a dress on and swish around in it.

    Coke didn't kill this woman. A lifetime of bad choices MAY have contributed to her early demise.

  25. MichaelBirks

    Wow, I'm impressed

    Seriously. 50+ posts and not a single aspertame rant.

    +1 to El Reg commenters.

    We actually had an MP (Former MP?) here in NZ 'musing out loud' about Coca Cola putting something in the drinks to make them so addictive.

    It was Sue Kedgley, a well known campaigner against the food and beverage industry, but still.

  26. Infernoz Bronze badge
    Holmes

    Switching to Diet Coke is a dumb alternative; water, tea, or coffee are safer than any fizzy.

    Diet soft drinks commonly contain Aspartame aka Nutrasweet, a re-purposed anti-ulcer drug, which is a proven carcinogen, excito-toxin (excites cells to death), and makes you drunker when in a mixer; Aspartame should have stayed banned, as it had been by the US FDA until it got corporate captured! All fizzy sodas shorten your lifespan, both standard and diet; it just happened faster with this stupid women.

    Diet Coke sweetener with Stevia will be better; however they are still plenty of other harmful chemicals in Coke e.g. various acids, etc.

  27. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  28. teebie

    Too much of anything is bad for you

    That's why its called "too much"

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