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New Zealand Mother's Death Linked to Deadly Coca-Cola Addiction: Coroner

Update Date: Feb 12, 2013 11:40 AM EST

A New Zealand coroner has found that drinking Coca-Cola led to the death of Natasha Harris, a 30-year-old mother.

According to the BBC, Ms. Harris had an addiction to the soft drink before her death three years ago. The mother of eight would drink as much as 10 liters of the fizzy beverage a day - as much as 11 times the daily recommended caffeine intake. Her partner said that she would start the day by drinking a cup of Coke and end her day with a bottle on the nightstand. If the house ran out of stock, her family said that she would suffer from withdrawal, with symptoms including the "shakes" and mood swings.

Her addiction led to serious health consequences even before her death. She was diagnosed with a cardiac arrythmia, a condition that occurs when the heart beats too quickly or too slowly. In fact, before her death, her family says that she complained of a racing heart, the New Zealand Herald reports. All of Ms. Harris's teeth needed to be removed due to decay, and at least one of her children was born without enamel on his or her teeth.

In addition, Ms. Harris did not drink alcohol, but her autopsy revealed an enlarged liver, because consumption of too much sugar had led to fatty deposits and low potassium levels in her blood.

The Telegraph reports that Ms. Harris also smoked about 30 cigarettes a day and ate little.

"I find that when all the available evidence is considered, were it not for the consumption of very large quantities of Coke by Natasha Harris, it is unlikely that she would have died when she died and how she died," the coroner Mr. Crerar's finding detailed.

Mr. Crerar said that the soft drink manufacturer should not be held liable for Ms. Harris's death, because they could not be responsible for consumers drinking huge amounts of the beverage. After all, he stated, the ingredients were entirely legal and responsibly enjoyed by millions worldwide. However, he stated that soda companies should put labels on bottles and cans indicating the dangers of drinking too much sugar or caffeine.

Indeed, Ms. Harris's family said that they ignored the warning signs of the late mother's health because the beverage contained no health warnings.

The Oceanic division of the Coca-Cola company said in a statement that many experts had been unable to agree on what exactly had caused Ms. Harris's death, and noted that even Mr. Crerar had not been able to conclusively pinpoint it.

"Therefore we are disappointed that the coroner has chosen to focus on the combination of Ms Harris' excessive consumption of Coca-Cola, together with other health and lifestyle factors, as the probable cause of her death," the company said.

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