'I almost died': How a weight-loss drink fad landed a woman in hospital – News24

Weight loss

Thursday, 09 June
01 Mar

After a church service in November 2021, Khoza asked a fellow church member how she got her new flat stomach. This was the first time the 29-year-old heard about the new weight-loss phenomenon.
Posts on TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube are promising rapid weight loss by consuming a combination of black coffee and lemon in the morning on an empty stomach. Some even recommend taking the concoction twice a day.
“I started drinking this combo last year November. [I had] no side effects when I started, but in late December, I started to experience headaches, nausea and dizziness and went to the doctor, who said my blood pressure was high,” she says.
“I didn’t think much of it,” Khoza says. So she continued taking the combo and her new blood pressure medication.
Khoza is a language interpreter at the CCMA in Ermelo, Mpumalanga. On a normal workday in January, she and a colleague were on their lunch break.
She started to experience chest pains, heart palpitations and collapsed. And when the 29-year-old next opened her eyes, she was is in hospital, connected to an oxygen tank.
“What did you have for breakfast?” her doctor asked her. That’s when she told them that she only had coffee and lemon for breakfast.
There is no evidence that combining coffee and lemon can cause weight loss, says cardiologist and medical researcher Dr Chevaan Hendrickse.
“There are no proven benefits of the combination of caffeine and lemon in improving weight loss its own because usually there’s a combination of other interventions that are usually in progress, such as increased exercise,” Hendrickse explains.
He says that people on social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube are misinforming users about quick weight-loss fixes.
“About 71% of adults consume coffee, so obviously it’s a huge market for these YouTubers and Tik Tok to push these types of health benefits. Often there are no studies backing these claims. They’ve got observational studies around coffee for the most part, which has been around for thousands of years, but there are huge health benefits and risks,” says Hendrickse.
He adds that the combination has very little nutritional value.
Hendrickse says that although coffee may have some health benefits, and some research has shown that caffeine can increase weight loss and alertness, he warns of the dangers of drinking too much coffee – like elevated blood pressure.
He explains that high caffeine consumption causes the release of hormones like adrenaline that can cause uncontrolled blood pressure.
Hendrickse also cautions that taking certain medications in conjunction with high amounts of coffee can be detrimental to one’s health.
“There are some antibiotics that can potentiate the effects of caffeine. If a patient is asthmatic, this could also cause toxic effects that accelerate the heart rate and push up blood pressure.”
“Some patients have an enzymatic defect that causes the caffeine to sit around in the blood for much longer, causing a surge in blood pressure,” he explains.
Hendrickse says that the side effects of caffeine include heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, anxiety, and depression – all of which Khoza has experienced since she collapsed.
“When I was in the hospital, my heart was beating very fast, so much so that I couldn’t breathe on my own and was put on oxygen. This combo also caused anxiety for me. Now I am on antidepressants because of this thing,” she says.
It’s been more than a month since her five-day hospital stay. Her blood pressure has stabilised, but she still feels anxious and has heart palpitations. Khoza is worried that she may have sustained lifelong health damage by drinking this combo.
And she has developed another health condition: “It really messed up my life so bad. I can no longer donate blood because my iron levels are low, so I now have to also take iron supplements. I can no longer drink just normal coffee anymore. I am not even allowed to drink tea anymore,” Khoza says.
She says that she has learned her lesson that there are no shortcuts in losing weight.
“I almost died because of this combination,” she says. “I am grateful that I am still alive. If I want to lose weight, I will go to the gym and eat healthy food.”
Khoza is one of many people who posted her experience on Facebook, warning others about the combination. 
“Your life matters. Talking from experience, there is no shortcut to losing weight. Stop using it,” she says.
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