Update 10/22/21: The paper has been temporarily withdrawn. A reason has not been supplied yet. We will update this article accordingly.
A man in China died as the result of drinking a 1.5-liter bottle of Coca-Cola within 10 minutes, his doctors have written in a report in Clinics and Research in Hepatology and Gastroenterology.
The 22-year-old, who is not thought to have had underlying conditions, went to the emergency department at Beijing Chaoyang Hospital following acute upper abdominal pains and swelling, which had lasted for four hours. Upon inspection, he had an elevated heart rate of 130 beats per minute, low blood pressure, and a breathing rate of just 32 times per minute.
A CT scan showed that there was a buildup of gas in his portal vein, an "ominous radiological sign" which indicates serious gastrointestinal problems, as well as gas cysts in the wall of his bowels. The scan also showed that his liver was not receiving enough blood and oxygen, due to the gas buildup in his portal vein, which carries blood from the gastrointestinal tract, gallbladder, pancreas, and spleen to the liver.
Upon questioning, the young man revealed that six hours prior he had consumed an entire 1.5-litre bottle of Coca-Cola because of the hot weather, shortly before the onset of his symptoms. The team attempted to relieve pressure from the man's intestines, as well as treat his inflammation and give him fluids. Unfortunately, this ultimately wasn't enough to save him. Lack of oxygen to the liver resulted in serious liver damage, which only got worse.
"Pneumatosis of portal vein is a rare clinical sign, also known as death sign, and it can be widely seen in patients with abdominal infection and intestinal hypertension," the team wrote in their report.
"In this case, drinking a large amount of Coca Cola in a short period of time caused gas accumulation in the intestinal tract at first. Then the intestinal pressure got a sudden rise, which resulted in the high pressure and led to the gas accumulation in the portal vein subsequently."
"Finally, the patient died of it."
Though buildup of gas in the portal vein can cause problems of this kind and death, biochemist Professor Nathan Davies believes that there was likely another underlying cause at play.
"The chances of downing 1.5 litres, or a little over three pints, of a regular soft drink being fatal would be very, very unlikely, I mean, staggeringly unlikely. Usually, this type of condition is caused because you have bacteria that has made its way from the normal gastrointestinal tract to somewhere they are not supposed to be, in this case, in the lining of the small intestine," he told the Daily Mail.
He went to say that if the bottle of Cola was the only cause of his death, we would see many more deaths of this type around the world.
"It's possible, but not necessary that likely, that drinking a large amount of carbonated drink could have had an exacerbating effect. But with no underlying condition it is very hard to see what could have happened."
But maybe it's best to burp out as much gas as possible, just to be on the safe side.