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Drinking Cola Can Cause Muscle Paralysis


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By Margarita Nahapetyan

Consuming too much cola may cause severe muscle problems - from mild weakness of the muscles to profound paralysis - warns a new report in the International Journal of Clinical Practice (IJCP).

According to Dr. Moses Elisaf of the University of Ioannina in Greece, individuals are nowadays consuming soft drinks much more than they ever did before, contributing therefore, to a number of health issues, such as tooth problems, bone demineralization and the development of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. "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," Dr. Elisaf expleined.

One theory is that hypokalaemia could be caused by high amounts of three common cola ingredients - caffeine, fructose and glucose, that could cause the kidneys to filter out too much potassium from the body cells, causing potassium levels to drop dangerously low. Dr. Elisaf said that the individual role of each of these ingredients in the pathophysiology of cola-induced hypokalaemia has not been established yet and may vary depending on each individual case.

However, the expert noted that in most of the cases that have been analyzed by scientists, it was caffeine intoxication that was found to play the most important role. This has been observed in previous studies that concentrated on other products that contain high levels of caffeine but no high amounts of sugar. The experts noted that health-related issues that are associated with drinking excessive amounts of cola have significantly increased due to the food and drink industry's push towards bigger portions.

They bring the example of one curious case of an Australian ostrich farmer who was in need of an emergency care for lung paralysis after drinking between 4 to 10 liters of cola on a daily basis for the past three years. The man required "intubation and mechanical ventilation", and was subsequently found to be "profoundly hypokalaemic." Later the farmer completely recovered, his potassium levels went back to normal, his weakness resolved, but he was strictly warned to curtail his cola consumption.

Another example on the matter included an expectant 21-year-old mother who drank up to 3 liters of cola per day on a regular basis for the last six years. Pregnant woman started complaining of losing her appetite, feeling constantly tired and suffered from persistent vomiting. A heart trace showed that she had an irregular heartbeat, probably the result of her low blood potassium levels. As soon as she stopped drinking so cola in excessive amounts, the woman made a full and uneventful recovery.

In 2007 the worldwide annual consumption of soft drinks reached 552 billion liters, which is the equivalent of just under 83 liters per one person annually, and the experts believe that the numbers are going to raise to 95 liters per person per year by 2012. However, the figure has already increased to an average of 212 liters per person per year just in the United States.

The report is scheduled to be published in the June issue of the IJCP.

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