Coconut water is high in potassium and drinking excessive amounts can cause more harm than good.
Justin Hakimian, MD and his colleagues at the Department of Cardiology, New York Hospital Queens in a publication entitled “Death by Coconut” stated the case of a 42 year old man that had very high amounts of potassium in his system that led to abnormal heart rhythms and fainting due to excessive drinking of coconut water.
The individual had drank a total of eight 11-ounce bottles of coconut water while playing outdoor tennis at temperatures exceeding 90° F.
He immediately became lightheaded and lost consciousness for a short period.
He was immediately rushed to the hospital and had a low heart rate and blood pressure as well as being warm and disoriented.
Health Implications Of Excessive Potassium
While the body needs potassium to ensure that the muscles and heart work properly, too much of it is detrimental to the body.
It is however believed that most Americans don’t get enough potassium in their diet.
Potassium can be derived from veggies and fruits, however ingesting a large amount of potassium in a short period of time can alter the heart rhythm and this can be fatal.
Hyperkalemia which also another term for high potassium is believed to be the main cause of ventricular fibrillation which involves the rapid fluttering of the lower portions of the heart rather than pumping blood. The heart can stop beating if the potassium level in the heart is very high and left untreated for a long period of time.
The average daily consumption of potassium for an adult as prescribed by the Institute of Medicine is 4,700 mg.
What Causes High Potassium?
The potassium level in the body can be excessively high as a result of high intake of potassium or decreased excretion.
If you have a medical condition and you are on medication that increases the potassium level in the blood, then consuming high amounts of potassium could be harmful.
Here are some medical conditions that can lead to high potassium levels in the body.
- untreated diabetes
- burns and trauma
- rhabdomyolysis which is the breakdown of muscle tissue
- kidney disease
- some medications such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors and also antibiotics like penicillin
- adrenal failure or Addison’s disease
- hemolysis which is the breakdown of red blood cells
The man in the ER of the hospital in the aforementioned incident also had rhabdomyolysis.
This is due to muscle exertion usually from a strenuous exercise and any physical challenging exercise under very humid conditions, it can cause kidney damage as well.
In his case his doctor stated that he had consumed about 5,500 mg of potassium which he obtained from coconut water.
The potassium that his muscle fibers had already released from his exercise, couple with the amount of potassium he ingested was what got him hospitalized.
The man recovered after spending three days in the hospital and with a temporary pacemaker to help regulate the rhythm of his heart.
His heart started to work normally and his potassium levels dropped, also his kidneys which had gone into acute failure and his muscles got back on track.
Risks And Benefits Of Coconut Water
- Drink less coconut water if you have kidney disease or a heart condition. Consult your doctor for recommended dosage.
- Do not drink coconut water to cater for severe dehydration, for example during a strenuous exercise under very humid conditions or when having diarrhea.
- Great for quenching thirst.
- It will aid hydration.
- It will also help your body absorb vital nutrients like; minerals, vitamins as well as phytonutrients.
- It’s great for the treatment of high blood pressure.
If you are not an athlete drinking plain water is sufficient for you, otherwise make sure to apply wisdom in your ingestion of coconut water.
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