Urban Legends

The Dangers of Drinking Coke

The Legend

Found on the Internet in October 1999

Have you ever thought about how unnatural it is to drink something that has been carbonated? They call soda and "sparkling" water aerated, but that isn't air in those bubbles, it's carbon dioxide -- the same stuff that your cars spew from their tailpipes. Some even say that this is exactly where soda companies get the stuff, but I don't know about that.

What I do know is that when divers go down too deep in the ocean their blood gets filled with bubbles of carbon dioxide, and if they come back to the surface too fast the bubbles stay in their blood stream and grow and burst their blood vessels until they die a horrible bloody exploding death.

So it only makes sense that if you are drinking the stuff that kills divers, you are running the risk of dying yourself.

This is exactly what happened two years ago in the campus sandwich shop at Delhi University. They had a "Who can drink the most Coke" contest and the winner, after drinking eight bottles in two minutes, died from the bends with burst blood vessels all over his body. From that day on, the university's administrators have banned soda and other carbonated beverages as well as diving.

Behind the Legend

In reality, divers do not die from the bends because bubbles of carbon dioxide are in their blood, but because bubbles of nitrous oxide have formed. This is the same gas used in soda, and it explains both the happy feeling some people have after drinking a soda and the fact that the bends are sometimes referred to as "the laughing death."

The legend does not mention the fact that the student who died in the Delhi University deli was unusually short -- only some 30 inches tall -- and skinny. Had he been of a more average height and mass, it would have taken at least 28 bottles of soda drunk within five minutes for instant fatality (well within the limits of most college students).

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