Coconut water is valuable because of its many nutrients and health benefits, especially the high levels of potassium it contains. But this can also have negative effects on your health, if taken in very high dozes.
Dr. Justin Hakimian from the Department of Cardiology at the New York Hospital Queens has conducted a study titled “Death by coconut”. He describes a case of a 42-year old man, who experienced frequent fainting and abnormal heart rate after he drank 8 11-ounce bottles of coconut water at the end of a long day playing tennis at 90° F. Suddenly he lost his consciousness and had to be taken to the RR, completely disoriented, with low heart rate and low blood pressure.
Too much potassium can be dangerous
This man had all the symptoms of potassium overdose. Our organism needs a balance of this mineral so that the heart and other muscles can work properly. Americans, in general, consume too little potassium. This mineral can be found in fruits and vegetables. But very high intake of potassium, in a short period, can have negative consequences on human heath, and it`s possibly deadly.
High levels of potassium in the body cause heart rhythm changes, which can be life-threating; they can also lead to ventricular fibrillation when the lower parts of the heart flutter with increases speed, instead of pumping the blood. If not treated in time, this condition can stop the heart from beating, possibly ending in death.
The Institute of Medicine has set the proper doze of daily potassium intake, which is 4,700 mg for adults. Upper limits are not set yet, still be careful, don`t overdo it.
Decreases excretion or excessive intake are both responsible for increased levels of potassium.
Certain health conditions, as well as some drug therapies, make high levels of potassium particularly dangerous, because they also elevate it.
Other reasons for elevated potassium levels:
- Diabetes, if it`s not controlled
- Kidney disease
- Breakdown of red blood cells
- Breakdown of muscle tissue
- Addison`s disease
- Trauma or burns
- Certain medications, like beta blockers or antibiotics like penicillin
The man whose case was part of the study report had muscle tissue breakdown, which is a result of muscle exertion, due to endurance exercising, or exercising in hot and humid weather. The intake of potassium from the 8 bottles of coconut water was 5,500 mg, which added to the potassium released from the muscle fibers after extended physical activity.
The man was lucky, he recovered after 3 days in hospital with a temporary pacemaker. The potassium levels were regulated, his heart work was returned to normal, and his kidneys started working properly.
Many studies have discusses the topic of dangerous potassium levels due to excess intake of coconut water. This should be avoided by people with any kidney problem, or when severely dehydrated, after a severe diarrhea, or when the body was lost electrolytes due to hard workouts in the heat.
The electrolyte concentration in coconut water is not well balanced to properly rehydrate the body in these situations.
But don`t think that coconut water hasn`t any positive impact on our health. In normal circumstances, it can hydrate the body, and provide it with many vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Just limit the intake to couple of glasses for the best effects. During exercising, people are recommended to drink plain water.