May 20/London/Metro -- Guzzling down bottles of cola can cause muscle paralysis or even potentially fatal heart conditions, doctors warn.
Large amounts of the fizzy drink can leave cola-lovers with too little potassium in the blood, which can cause a host of problems.
One woman, who drank more than three liters of cola a day for six years, even suffered a heart blockage but recovered after dropping her intake and taking supplements.
Others even suffered paralysis, said Dr. Moses Elisaf, from the University of Ioannina in Greece who led a study on the condition, cola-induced hypokalaemia.
He added, "Although most patients recover when they stop drinking cola and take potassium, it can make them more susceptible to potentially fatal complications, such as an irregular heartbeat." It is already known drinking lots of fizzy drinks can cause tooth decay, diabetes and "softening" of the bones.
This news could worry cola drinkers, but it only applies to drinkers of more than two liters a day. Caffeine intoxication played the most important role, Elisaf said. The most common ingredients in cola drinks are glucose, fructose and caffeine. "The individual role of each of these ingredients has not been determined and may vary in different patients," added Elisaf.
"In addition, excessive consumption of any kind of cola can lead to a range of health problems including fatigue, loss of productivity and muscular symptoms that vary from mild weakness to profound paralysis.
"We believe further studies are needed to establish how much is too much when it comes to daily consumption." However, a British Soft Drinks Association spokeswoman argued, "The examples used are all very extreme cases.
"Moderate consumption of cola drinks is completely safe, and people can continue to enjoy such drinks as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle."
In 2007, worldwide consumption of soft drinks reached 552 billion liters -- 82.5 liters per person. This is projected to rise to 95 liters per person by 2012.
From the May 26, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition