Soda May Cause Muscular Weakness

If you drink too much sugar-sweetened soda, particularly cola drinks, you may be putting yourself at risk of developing muscle fatigue and a host of other problems as well.

In spite of numerous reports of health issues linked to drinking soda pop, most people are not giving it up. In fact, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health were alarmed to find that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages has actually gone up since the 1980's. Along with this rise in consumption has come a rise in concern among health experts about the health risk associated with drinking sugary soft drinks, and in some cases, cola drinks in particular.

Without even going into the obesity problem in this country, the growing list of health concerns associated with over-consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages includes tooth disease, weakened bones and the development of both chronic and gestational diabetes. And medical experts have recently added severe muscle weakness to the listing.

Research performed by doctors at the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Ioannina in Greece led to the announcement that excess cola consumption leads to low blood potassium levels, which in turn leads to symptoms ranging from mild muscle weakness to severe paralysis. Most of the study patients, who had been drinking between two and nine liters of cola a day, recovered when they stopped drinking the soda, or at least cut way back, and, in some cases, took potassium supplements under medical supervision.

Around the same time, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and other research organizations found that drinking more than five servings of sugar-sweetened cola beverages a week, before you become pregnant, significantly increases your chance of developing gestational diabetes during your pregnancy. Gestational diabetes increases your risk of illness during pregnancy and complications during delivery and also puts you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you develop gestational diabetes, your baby is also at higher risk of being overweight and developing early onset diabetes.

When you were young, your mother may have given you flat cola or ginger ale to help relieve  nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and offset dehydration, and you may even be using this age-old remedy with your own children. But even this simple home treatment has been criticized by health experts, who say that flattened carbonated drinks contain too much sugar and not enough salt to be effective at replacing fluids and electrolytes.

The offending ingredients in cola drinks-glucose, fructose and caffeine-affect your blood sugar and potassium levels individually, and in different ways, as noted in various clinical studies. But the combination in cola drinks, and that fact that some people drink way too much of it, day after day, has public health experts concerned.

Although researchers don't know why these health problems are associated with cola drinks but not with other types of sugary beverages such as fruit drinks and other flavors of soda,  some have suggested that the biggest reason is cola's popularity. We simply drink too much of the stuff.



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Packer, CD. " Cola-Induced Hypokalaemia: A Super-Sized Problem." International Journal of Clinical Practice. June 2009 ; 63(6): 833-835. 13 Jan 2011.

Reece, A. and Jacobes, M. "Does Drinking "Flat" Cola Prevent Dehydration in Children with Acute Gastroenteritis?" British Medical Journal/Archives of Diseases in Childhood.  2008; 95(12): 1071. Web. 13 Jan 2011.