Although a number of studies have confirmed the health benefits coconut water provides, there are still health risks that this tonic can incur if consumed in excess. Namely, a recent study, called Death by Coconut, led by Dr. Justin Hakimian and his team examined the case of 42-year old man who experienced abnormal heart rhythm and frequent episodes of fainting after drinking coconut water. The man was at a tennis game when he consumed a bottle of coconut water. He was taken to hospital after losing consciousness, which the doctors ascribed to low heart rate and hypotension.
Coconut water is abundant in potassium, which is why doctors found increased potassium levels in the patient’s blood. While it’s true that the human body depends on this mineral for proper function, excessive amounts of it can also trigger some health issues including arrhythmias and ventricular fibrillation, both of which can be fatal if left untreated.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily potassium requirements equal 4,700mg for adults. However, scientists are still uncertain as to what’s the maximum potassium amount the human body can metabolize. Potassium levels in the blood can rise as a result of reduced excretion and excess potassium intake.
Other contributing factors that lead to increased potassium levels include:
- breakdown of muscle tissue (rhabdomyolysis)
- breakdown of red blood cells (hemolysis)
- uncontrolled diabetes
- Addison’s disease (adrenal failure)
- medications such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and some antibiotics such as penicillin
- burns and trauma
- kidney disease
The subject of the above-mentioned study experienced increased potassium levels due to muscle tissue breakdown, which was a result of muscle exertion, vigorous exercise and working out in hot weather. The man consumed 5,500mg of potassium through coconut water, which led to his hospitalization, according to doctors. This condition can also result in kidney damage.
Fortunately, the patient’s condition improved after he was given a pacemaker – his heart function normalized along with his potassium levels. Also, his kidneys and muscles started functioning normally.
The high potassium level in coconut water and the dangers of it have been examined by other studies as well.
Health experts strongly advise that people with kidney disease and heart problems avoid drinking coconut water, especially after strenuous exercise, when the body’s electrolyte levels drop significantly. On the other hand, coconut water is low in electrolytes and cannot properly hydrate your body in these conditions.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that coconut water is harmful altogether. The truth is this natural tonic is a great source of nutrients important for proper body function. But, to reap most of its health benefits and avoid the health risks, make sure you curb your intake to a couple of servings a day!