Coconut water is rich in potassium which is great for your health, but can also be harmful if consumed in excess. A recent study named “Death by Coconut” conducted by Dr. Justin Hakimian and his team explored the case of a 42-year old man who was suffering from abnormal heart rhythm and frequent fainting after consuming coconut water. One day, the man was playing tennis during the day at high temperatures, and consumed a bottle of coconut water. He suddenly felt lightheaded and lost consciousness, and when doctors examined him they found that he had low heart rate and low blood pressure.
The doctors concluded that the man was experiencing signs of increased potassium levels in the blood. Our body needs a right amount of potassium for everything to function properly. Most of the American population doesn’t get enough potassium due to the unhealthy diet which rarely includes fresh fruit and vegetables. But, consuming too much potassium-rich fruit and vegetables can also cause health problems. Increased potassium levels in the blood can lead to heart rhythm changes and ventricular fibrillation – if both conditions are left untreated, they can be fatal!
This is why the Institute of Medicine has set a recommended daily potassium intake which currently sits at 4 700 mg. for adults. The upper limit has yet to be determined, as scientists are still unsure of how much potassium we can consume. The amount of potassium in the blood can be increased due to decreased excretion and excess potassium intake.
Furthermore, the levels of potassium may be increased due to:
Breakdown of muscle tissue (rhabdomyolysis)
Breakdown of red blood cells (hemolysis)
Addison’s disease (adrenal failure)
Medications like beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and some antibiotics such as penicillin
Burns and trauma
The man who was the subject of the aforementioned study was suffering from muscle tissue breakdown which occurs as a result of muscle exertion, strenuous exercise and exercising in hot conditions. This condition can cause kidney damage, and according to the doctors, the man consumed 5 500 mg. of potassium through the coconut water which led to his hospitalization.
Luckily, the man was able to recover with a pacemaker – his heart function has been normalized as well as his potassium levels, and his kidneys and muscles have regained normal function. The dangers of high potassium levels as a result of coconut water have been a subject of other studies as well.
People suffering from kidney disease and heart problems should avoid drinking coconut water especially after hard workouts, when the body loses a lot of electrolytes. Coconut water doesn’t contain enough electrolytes and cannot properly hydrate your body in these conditions.
However, this is not to say that coconut water is not beneficial for some people. This amazing natural drink hydrates your body, quenches your thirst and provides your body with essential nutrients. Limit your intake to a couple of servings a day and enjoy coconut water’s full health benefits!