Drinking cola each day is associated with causing severe and possibly fatal potassium deficiency, a study by researchers from the University of Ioannina, Greece suggests.
The study, published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice reviewed the several cases in which men and women consumed 2 to 10 quarts of cola each day and concluded that cola consumption may induce the risk of potassium deficiency.
Potassium deficiency means that the blood levels of potassium is abnormally low, a condition called hypokalemia that causes fatigue, muscle weakness, cramps and intestinal paralysis, which may further lead to bloating, constipation, and abdominal pain.
One of the study authors said: "We are consuming more soft drinks than ever before, and a number of health issues have already been identified including 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 hypokalemia, in which the blood potassium levels fall, causing an adverse effect on vital muscle functions."
The researchers reviewed several cases of patients that consumed between 2 and 10 quarts of cola daily. For example, a 21-year-old who drank 3 quarts each day ended up being admitted to the hospital for persistent vomiting, fatigue and appetite loss. Another person was also hospitalized after drinking 7 quarts each day for 10 months and suffering progressive weakening of her muscles.
Both patients recovered after they stopped drinking cola and were treated with intravenous or oral potassium.
Potassium plays a critical role in the functioning of the body's nerves, muscles and balancing of fluids in the body. In severe deficiency cases, patients can suffer from cramping, paralysis, irregular heartbeat and even death. The study also reviewed a case involving a man who drank 10 quarts each day and he suffered lung paralysis.
The researchers believe that both caffeine and sugar have something to do with the potassium deficiency.
Cola may not be the only beverage that may potentially cause potassium deficiency. According to the linus pauling Institute, use of potassium-wasting diuretics, severe vomiting or diarrhea, overuse or abuse of laxatives, anorexia nervosa or bulimia, can all cause hypokalemia.
Potassium rich foods include bananas, chard and spinach. Other good sources are fennel, kale, mustard greens, brussel sprouts, broccoli, squash, apricots, prunes, almonds and tomatoes.