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Medicine Science

Cola Consumption Can Lead To Muscle Problems 420

wjousts writes "As I'm sure many Slashdot readers live almost exclusively on cola drinks, a new warning from doctors: 'Doctors have issued a warning about excessive cola consumption after noticing an increase in the number of patients suffering from muscle problems, according to the June issue of IJCP, the International Journal of Clinical Practice. ... '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.' And sorry, diet colas aren't any better."
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Cola Consumption Can Lead To Muscle Problems

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:05PM (#28032205)

    I drink mountain dew instead.

    • Re:Cool story bro (Score:5, Informative)

      by FredFredrickson ( 1177871 ) * on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:11PM (#28032295) Homepage Journal
      According to the article:

      It appears that hypokalaemia can be caused by excessive consumption of three of the most common ingredients in cola drinks â" glucose, fructose and caffeine.

      So first off, Yes, Diet makes a difference- lacking two of the ingredients. And Diet Caffeine free is just fine. Additionally, these three inrgedients are not cola exclusive. Coffee (from dunks with liquid sugar), Root Beer, and other drinks, I'm sure, could find yourself in the same dillema.

      I'm annoyed at this doomsday article (not just TFS, but TFA) which is totally shock value, and one paragraph of truth.

      But then again, I suppose I should get used to that.

      • by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:24PM (#28032481)

        And Diet Caffeine free is just fine.

        I wouldn't be as bold as to suggest that anything about Diet Caffeine free coke is "fine".

        • by Jarik C-Bol ( 894741 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @07:00PM (#28032981)
          caffeine free diet soda. for when you are low on artificial coloring.
        • Re:Cool story bro (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @07:07PM (#28033065) Homepage

          Oh Jesus, Internet. Not this again. Can't we all agree that the science indicates aspartame is either harmless or barely measurably harmful, and certainly less harmful than the obesity one gets from consuming large amounts of sugar?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            No. There is another effect, one which was not widely publicized when it came out but saw enough of the light of day for me to hear about it. And no, it's not just aspartame that is at fault here.

            Sorry this will be a little long, but I promise it's good:
            So you feed your lab rats a fair number of their calories via yogurt (because it's easy to tamper with). They do reasonably well on this diet, and they don't overeat compared to their activity level -- they stay a reasonable weight. Now you leave half
      • by Endo13 ( 1000782 )

        Given the choice between regular cola and diet, I'll take option c: none of the above. Diet tastes like garbage and gives me an upset stomach.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by averner ( 1341263 )
        That depends on what you consider "fine". Artificial sweeteners have been shown to have a more obesity-causing effect in lab rats than sugar (due to their disruption of hunger, metabolism, etc), so diet drinks are probably not even "diet" drinks. I haven't heard of such an experiment performed on humans yet but I wouldn't take my chances.
    • FTFA:

      It appears that hypokalaemia can be caused by excessive consumption of three of the most common ingredients in cola drinks â" glucose, fructose and caffeine.

      The dew is even worse for you, bro. The article makes no mention of diet colas, which do not contain fructose or glucose, so I doubt they are as bad as sugar sodas.

  • Shit (Score:5, Funny)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:05PM (#28032211)

    Define "excessive", please.

    • Re:Shit (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cryogenic Specter ( 702059 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:08PM (#28032247)
      According to the article, the people were drinking 3 to 7 LITERS a day. That is a lot.
      • Re:Shit (Score:5, Interesting)

        by adisakp ( 705706 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:14PM (#28032347) Journal

        According to the article, the people were drinking 3 to 7 LITERS a day. That is a lot.

        If you drank 7 liters of pure water a day you would probably suffer from low potassium as a result of electrolytes being flushed our in your urine. The US-RDA for water is 2 liters of water (8 cups) per day.

        Not to mention, eating 2-3 bananas over the course of the day would probably correct the problem.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Red Flayer ( 890720 )
          Drinking 7 L of water a day would cause hypokalemia, but the hyponatremia (low sodium) would become a severe problem long before the reduced potassium.

          The interesting thing about the cola problem is that the hypokalemia is more severe than the hyponatremia, suggesting that there is an additional factor other than overhydration.

          Best guess is caffeine, as per the article. It's already well documented that high doses of caffeine cause hypokalemia, even when the caffeine is administered in pill form without
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Could it just be that since cola typically contains some sodium, the hyponatremia doesn't occur, and all that's left is hypokalemia?

        • Re:Shit (Score:5, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @08:12PM (#28033779)

          The US-RDA for water is 2 liters of water (8 cups) per day.

          [Citation needed]

          There is explicitly no RDA for water. The DRI or AI for water [usda.gov] is between 2.7-3.7 liters per day, but "includes all water contained in food, beverages, and drinking water." Those references also note that "Thirst and consumption of beverages at meals are adequate to maintain hydration." -- I.e. no need to carry a bottle to constantly sip from as if you're trying to survive a desert hike, on top of every other beverage you're already drinking.

          The 64 oz / day myth was created by people who can't read both consecutive sentences from the 1945 Food & Nutrition Board study: "An ordinary standard for diverse persons is 1 milliliter for each calorie of food. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods." Well established. [wikipedia.org] The most recent recommendation from the same board suggests approximately 3 liters of water, about-faces itself saying most (80%) is met through beverages, explicitly denotes caffeinated beverages as an acceptable source of hydration, and similarly reiterates that the "vast majority" of people meet their hydration need merely by responding to thirst - not by forcing themselves to drink water to hit a magic number.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kilodelta ( 843627 )
        No kidding. Even at my heaviest consumption I went through less than a liter a day. Now I don't drink commercially produced soft drinks all that much, it's one maybe once in a very great while. I've gotten adept at making limeade, iced tea, etc. using real sugar instead of HFCS.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by xkenny13 ( 309849 )

      From TFA: The case studies looked at patients whose consumption ranged from two to nine litres of cola a day.

      I'm good. :-)

    • The case studies looked at patients whose consumption ranged from two to nine litres of cola a day.


    • From the BBC article on the same study [bbc.co.uk]:

      They tell of the curious case of an Australian ostrich farmer who needed emergency care for lung paralysis after drinking 4-10 litres of cola a day.

      Another example included a pregnant woman who regularly consumed up to three litres a day for the last six years and complained of tiredness, appetite loss and persistent vomiting.

      A heart trace revealed she had an irregular heartbeat, probably caused by her low blood potassium levels.

      Once she stopped drinking so much cola, she made a full and uneventful recovery.

      So, yeah, excessive, even by my standards.

  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:08PM (#28032251) Journal

    '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.'

    Bananas contain lots of potassium.

    Solution is obvious: drink all the cola you want, just make sure to supplement with banana ice cream. Added advantage of calcium and magnesium in the ice cream (also necessary for proper muscle function).

    This post brought to you by Dole-omite and Benn & Gerry's.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Joce640k ( 829181 )

      Came here to say this.

      The problem is lack of potassium, not excess of cola.

      Solution: Go get some potassium.

      • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:16PM (#28032377) Journal
        From a physiological perspective, though, the problem is not a lack of potassium. That is a symptom. While it requires treatment, the underlying cause also should be treated

        The problem is probably comprised of two main factors: caffeine intoxication and fructose-related diarrhea.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by retchdog ( 1319261 )

          2 liters of cola has about 220mg of caffeine. Twenty ounces of reasonably strong black coffee (e.g. starbucks) has a bit over 400mg, and many people drink a few cups a day.

          If the problem with cola were due to the caffeine, we'd have found the problem already in coffee drinkers who have already been studied to hell and back by people who'd just love to ban yet another enjoyable chemical.

          No, as mentioned above the "problem" is probably that the sheer volume of cola flushes out potassium, and maybe the sugar a

          • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @07:07PM (#28033057) Journal
            Hypokalemia is a documented side effect of caffeine intoxication. We have discovered this same problem in coffee drinkers, if you read the literature, you'd see for yourself.

            Please note the "excessive" volumes referred to in TFA are on the order of 4+ (or up to 10+) L per day. That's like 2+ to 5+ pots of strong coffee a day in terms of caffeine content.

            This is probably exacerbated by the "flushing" of electrolytes via diarrhea caused by high-volume fructose consumption.

            Please. Know what you're talking about, or at least RTFA, before you try to make a counter-argument.

            Overhydration can cause hypokalemia via excess elimination as well, but that becomes a problem long after hyponatremia becomes a severe problem.
    • by Moblaster ( 521614 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:14PM (#28032351)

      Too late. A certain extremely large software company has already patented the banana ice cream Coke float (as well as a number of variations involve diet and Pepsi applications) in order to provide its programmers a permanent competitive advantage.

    • Bananas contain lots of potassium.

      According to this [health.gov] you need 4,700mg/day of potassium even without the effects of too much soda. At 422mg per banana, that's 11.14 bananas per day.

      Am I missing something? It seems you would have to eat a freaking huge amount of any of the listed foods to get your daily amount.

  • Just mix 'em together and you're set.
  • Cola specific? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EvilToiletPaper ( 1226390 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:19PM (#28032419)
    AFAIK hypoalkemia can be caused by fluid intake of any type in excess e.g. the mother who died recently on a radio program after drinking too much water. TFA doesn't state if cola affects it more than say water.

    I know cola has a lot more bad stuff in it but does is it a major catalyst of hypoalkemia?
    Looks like the reporter just wanted to make a sensational headline.
    • by piojo ( 995934 )

      I know cola has a lot more bad stuff in it but does is it a major catalyst of hypoalkemia?
        Looks like the reporter just wanted to make a sensational headline.

      On the other hand, how common is it to drink multiple liters of water per day? (Unless you're hiking the Grand Canyon.) If people are more likely to suffer this condition due to drinking soda, it seems fair to include "soda" in the headline.

    • "Hold Your Wee for a Wii", they called it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bagsc ( 254194 )

      Cola is significantly worse than water because:
      1) Simple sugars (glucose, fructose) significantly enhance electrolyte absorption and reabsorption. The later is important, because in your kidneys, this means more electrolytes excreted.
      2) Caffeine is a diuretic, and increases glomerular filtration rate, leading to more fluid and electrolyte excretion.
      3) Cola is very acidic (eg 2.6 pH). This strips out cations (sodium, potassium, calcium) and increased levels of anions (citrate, chloride, carbonate).

      The three

  • Very dramatic (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:22PM (#28032463)

    Hypokalemia is very dramatic. Not. According to Wikipedia:

    Mild hypokalemia is often without symptoms, although it may cause a small elevation of blood pressure,[5] and can occasionally provoke cardiac arrhythmias. Moderate hypokalemia, with serum potassium concentrations of 2.5-3 mEq/L, may cause muscular weakness, myalgia, and muscle cramps (owing to disturbed function of the skeletal muscles), and constipation (from disturbed function of smooth muscles).

    In other words you might have cramps and the likes, and be constipated. And what's the no less dramatic cure to this terrible ailment? Oral potassium chloride supplements (Klor-Con, Sando-K, Slow-K) or just eating leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, citrus fruits, oranges or bananas.

    Really, thanks for that Slashdot. While we're at it, did you know that it is estimated that over 40% of the population has B12 deficiency [wikipedia.org], and that it can cause tiredness, decreased mental work capacity, decreased concentration and decreased memory, irritability and depression?

    • Respect for the danger would be a good idea. Hypokalemia can cause arrhythmia. And hyperkalemia can also cause ... you guessed it, arrhythmia. And arrhythmia can cause death, with little warning. In fact, if your potassium level gets low enough or high enough, it is guaranteed that you will die from it, promptly. A single hypodermic syringe of non-diluted potassium chloride is practically guaranteed to send you to meet your maker within a couple of minutes.

      Lots of things can cause the level to get too

  • What part of cola? (Score:3, Informative)

    by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:30PM (#28032593)

    So what ingredient of cola does this? Last I read most popular cola drinks like Coke and Pepsi are nothing more than sugar, water, cinnamon, vanilla and phosphoric acid. Most cola drinks do not even have kola nut ingredients in them.

    On thing is sure I stopped drinking the stuff regularly when I went to the dentist and had eleven cavities. Yes I brush twice a day and use the water pick. The trick is to rinse your mouth out after drinking very acidic and sugary drinks. As soon as you drink the acid begins to attack your enamel so after your done with a soda rinse your mouth out thoroughly with water. The few hours between drinking an acidic drink and brushing is more than enough time for acids to attack your teeth. This is what my dentist told me as he was drilling, not fun.

  • Bananas (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anenome ( 1250374 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:44PM (#28032793)

    Might explain why I had a major hankering for bananas :P Eating as many as two or more per day. Bananas freakin' rock, the perfect fruit! Comes in it's own 'packaging', the flavor varies by ripeness (I like 'em a bit green), easily blended, no seeds to pick or spit out, and cheap and easily available.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bigjeff5 ( 1143585 )

      Check it out [usda.gov] and notice how far down on the list Bananas are for potassium content.

      One cup of tomato paste (granted, it's concentrated) has roughly 5 times the potassium content that a cup of banana does. A baked potato has just about double a banana, and a 1/2 filet of halibut has not quite double. More reasonable tomato sauces also double the potassium content of bananas. A nice meal of filet of halibut and baked potato is worth 4-6 bananas, depending on if you go for the full or just half filet.

      So, if

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anenome ( 1250374 )

        Ha, and bananas have a reputation for high potassium content. So much for that idea.

        Reminds me of the mistake that was made about spinach. They thought spinach had just ungodly amounts of iron, etc., turns out the original research on the issue had misplaced a decimal, giving spinach 10 times more iron content than it actually had. By then, Popeye was already a popular character and I doubt the meme has lost steam to this day.

        Luckily, I love spinach :P In fact, I love almost all vegetables. The only vegetab

  • Pretty soon, the prices on cola will drop to the floor with this news. Then I can stock up!!

  • by shellster_dude ( 1261444 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:45PM (#28032807)
    I only have to worry about a shrinking penis.

    http://www.snopes.com/medical/potables/mountaindew.asp [snopes.com]
  • The amount that people drink in this study is just astounding. And really, how much common sense do these people have?

    The first, a 21 year-old woman, was consuming up to three litres of cola a day and complained of fatigue, appetite loss and persistent vomiting. An electrocardiagram also revealed she had a heart blockage, while blood tests showed she had low potassium levels.

    I'll give you hint sweetie. If you have persistent vomiting and you're drinking 3 liters a day of anything, stop drinking it and I b

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

    Next they'll tell us that pizza, lack of sun, and too much pr0n leads to painful death.

  • ...but the muscles in my fingers have given up..
  • by Annorax ( 242484 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @08:38PM (#28034005) Homepage

    OK, the person that wrote the article really needs to stop using the term "cola" in place of "soft drink".

    Soft drinks come in many flavors including cola flavor.

    From my reading of the article, the soft drink can be any flavor and still be a problem if they contain any of the three ingredients listed (none of which include cola or cola flavor).

    Get it right!

  • oh noes (Score:5, Informative)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @10:34PM (#28035075) Homepage

    Gee, this is hardly surprising. Who'd have thought that over-indulgence of soft drinks (or 'adult' drinks like beer and liquor) would result in physical problems?

    With soda/cola/pop/whatever, you are consuming a supersaturate. There is a shitload of sugar in there, and its consumption will dehydrate you. And it's not all that good for the ol' pancreas, either.

    Diet sodas are also a problem, as they have aspartame in them. Aspartame is a mild neurotoxin. No, you won't get dehydrated and get muscle fatigue that way, but you sure as hell will cause problems down the line. Some people who are highly environmentally sensitive will have an allergic/asthmatic reaction to the stuff.

  • by sandman83 ( 1550133 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @12:30AM (#28035831)
    Just as the article states that the excessive drinking of cola drinks can cause problems with low potassium. What it doesn't tell you is that the phosphoric acid found in these drinks can also lead to being hypocalcemic. As the acid usually displaces the calcium that's found in the blood stream, and raises the phosphoric levels. The side affects of hypocalcemia can range from numbing/tingling of the extremities, tetany(seizing of the muscle), all the way to seizures and even death in most extreme cases. To those who have a rare condition called Hypoparathyroidism, it can become life threatening withing minutes of we call a "crash". We use the term "crash" to signify that the blood calcium to have suddenly dropped to low levels and start become symptomatic. When that happens and the person can't get bring the levels back up. The next course of action would to get the person to emergency room as fast as possible. The thing is anyone can become hypocalcemic at anytime. Especially when they are on really poor diet.
  • by RoundSparrow ( 341175 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @07:28AM (#28037623)

    Who says we should eat 3 meals a day every day? How about: put more effort into selecting and preparing our meals, eat fewer meals! I find I'm way less hungry if I go longer without eating - as I'm not constantly 3 or 4 hours after the last big meal. The hunger sensation goes away if you get past it (a good analogy is the vibrations of breaking the "sound barrier" in a jet airplane, you throttle past it). In the USA, family and friends are so programmed to do the "3 meals a day" thing that practically nobody questions it.

    Discovery of this study changed my life. Now, some days I just eat one big meal, I focus more on enjoying that meal. If you have only one meal in a day: 2 hours to enjoy the meal, read while I'm eating or socialize with friends. I focus more on the quality of food, not quantity. Eating less frequently is a lifestyle change, not a diet!

    From: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16529878 [nih.gov]


    "The effect on health of alternate day calorie restriction: eating less and more than needed on alternate days prolongs life."

    Restricting caloric intake to 60-70% of normal adult weight maintenance requirement prolongs lifespan 30-50% and confers near perfect health across a broad range of species. Every other day feeding produces similar effects in rodents, and profound beneficial physiologic changes have been demonstrated in the absence of weight loss in ob/ob mice. Since May 2003 we have experimented with alternate day calorie restriction, one day consuming 20-50% of estimated daily caloric requirement and the next day ad lib eating, and have observed health benefits starting in as little as two weeks, in insulin resistance, asthma, seasonal allergies, infectious diseases of viral, bacterial and fungal origin (viral URI, recurrent bacterial tonsillitis, chronic sinusitis, periodontal disease), autoimmune disorder (rheumatoid arthritis), osteoarthritis, symptoms due to CNS inflammatory lesions (Tourette's, Meniere's) cardiac arrhythmias (PVCs, atrial fibrillation), menopause related hot flashes. We hypothesize that other many conditions would be delayed, prevented or improved, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, brain injury due to thrombotic stroke atherosclerosis, NIDDM, congestive heart failure. Our hypothesis is supported by an article from 1957 in the Spanish medical literature which due to a translation error has been construed by several authors to be the only existing example of calorie restriction with good nutrition. We contend for reasons cited that there was no reduction in calories overall, but that the subjects were eating, on alternate days, either 900 calories or 2300 calories, averaging 1600, and that body weight was maintained. Thus they consumed either 56% or 144% of daily caloric requirement. The subjects were in a residence for old people, and all were in perfect health and over 65. Over three years, there were 6 deaths among 60 study subjects and 13 deaths among 60 ad lib-fed controls, non-significant difference. Study subjects were in hospital 123 days, controls 219, highly significant difference. We believe widespread use of this pattern of eating could impact influenza epidemics and other communicable diseases by improving resistance to infection. In addition to the health effects, this pattern of eating has proven to be a good method of weight control, and we are continuing to study the process in conjunction with the NIH.

  • Gah! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Thursday May 21, 2009 @03:46PM (#28044733)

    Considering this comes from the International Journal of Clinical Practice it sounds awfully unscientific. Of course this could just be bad editing and a poor choice of headline.

    What is Coke? It is causing it? What in Coke is causing it is a better question, and likely the answer is sugar. 9 x 40g = 360g a DAY in ONLY cola. That's a third of a kilo, not including sugar you get from other sources. Go look at what 1kg of sugar looks like in the supermarket, and try and eat it in 3 days! In which case, Cola isn't the problem, it is sugary drinks in which there are plenty.

    For the Record:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation [wikipedia.org]

    And my fav:
    http://xkcd.com/552/ [xkcd.com]

    I find usually very smart people do not understand this very simple logical fact and make grandiose statements. They very well may be right, however their argument is wrong. Climate Change is one of my favorite examples of this. Flame on! (Sorry I couldn't resist!)

    Also think about Freakanomics.

    Perhaps there is also a statistical correlation between the people that would freaking drink 9 cans of coke in a day and those that smoke 20+ cigerates a day, or the fact that those people are more predetermined to be obese which may be causing it, or be more likely to eat other unhealthy foods, of which anyone factor may be the cause of.

    There are many possibilities and factors and we are talking about samples and statistics here in a study where these are not controlled environments.

Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing. -- Wernher von Braun