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Huge amounts of cola can cause muscle problems

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Drinking several liters of cola-containing soft drinks per day can cause a chronic depletion of potassium in the body, leading to muscle weakness and even paralysis, according to Greek doctors.

While you might think that “excessive soft drink consumption at this level is so rare that it is not a public health issue,” writes the author of an accompanying editorial in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, “we have every reason to think that it is not rare.”

Dr. Moses Elisaf and associates at the University of Ioannina, Greece identified six reports of cola-induced potassium deficiency published since 1994. Quantities of cola consumed ranged from 2 to 9 liters per day.

Muscle complaints ranged from mild weakness to profound paralysis, and all patients had abnormally low potassium levels in the blood.

“Fortunately,” Elisaf and colleagues write, “all patients had a rapid and complete recovery after the discontinuation of cola ingestion and the oral or intravenous supplementation of potassium.”

In his editorial, Dr. Clifford D. Packer at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, comments that “there is very little doubt that tens of millions of people in industrialized countries drink at least 2-3 L of cola per day.”

Packer stresses that “the soft drink industry needs to promote safe and moderate use of its products for all age groups, reduce serving sizes, and pay heed to the rising call for healthier drinks.”

SOURCE: International Journal of Clinical Practice, June 2009.

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