VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Durian and Coke are NOT a deadly combination

A Facebook (FB) post published by a Sri Lankan man in May 2015 that continues to gain traction among Filipinos to this day wrongly claims that durian and Coke are deadly when taken in combination.

The Sri Lankan’s post features a screen grab of a 2014 post by a Malaysian FB user that read: “Eat durian then drink Coke is ‘cobra poison’!… A 28 years old Chinese tourist traveling in Thailand, ate a lot of durian … then drank a can of Coke, suffered caffeine intoxication caused by the surge in blood pressure, the results lead to his sudden cardiac death.”

Experts, however, told VERA Files Fact Check that claims of the food combination causing deadly caffeine overdose are not true, and that the same combination causing high blood pressure and cardiac arrest are not supported by science.

‘Deadly’ caffeine intoxication claim is false

Jovita Raval, chief of the Nutrition Information and Education Division of the National Nutritional Council (NNC) told VERA Files that the reported lethal combination of the two food items has not been established scientifically.

“Eating durian and drinking carbonated drinks in moderate amounts will not lead to fatal caffeine overdose,” she said in an email interview.

“Caffeine is a substance that is present in many soft drinks. It is considered safe when consumed in moderation,” she said. “Durian, on the other hand, does not contain caffeine.”

Raval said that compared to the recommended 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for healthy adults, a 12-ounce carbonated soft drink contains only approximately 34 milligrams of caffeine.

Registered dietitian-nutritionist Simoun Bayudan told VERA Files the same, saying there is no definitive evidence proving that caffeine intoxication or overdose will happen when consuming durian and coke under general circumstances.

“If one were to consume durian and Coke together, they will most probably have a full stomach, not to mention, bloating due to the concentration of acids in the soda,” Bayudan added.

Durian and hypertension or cardiac arrest

That durian affects blood pressure is controversial, Raval told VERA Files. But she said there are not enough studies to support the claim that consumption of the fruit while drinking Coke will cause high blood pressure or cardiac arrest.

“There is no sufficient scientific evidence saying that eating a lot of durian and then drinking carbonated soft drinks may induce hypertension or cardiac arrest,” she wrote to VERA Files.

Raval explained, however, that hypertensive individuals (people with high blood pressure) tend to avoid durian because anecdotally, it is believed to be a “heaty” fruit, meaning it raises body temperature.

In its introduction, a 2018 study by researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia cited old studies noting that in Malaysia, people with hypertension tend to avoid the fruit thinking it may increase their blood pressure, and that in Indonesia, pregnant women believe the fruit can increase heat in the womb and induce miscarriages.

A 2016 study from the same Malaysian university that looked at the effect of durian consumption in healthy male adolescents saw that a modest amount of durian intake (about 250 grams) did not affect their blood pressure and heart rate. A “significant increase in heart rate” however, was observed among those given a higher amount of durian (500 grams).

“The association on how durian affects blood pressure on both healthy and hypertensive subjects has not been fully explored,” Raval said.

Consume durian and coke in moderation

Although eating durian and drinking coke is not deadly as the post falsely claimed, the experts warned people not to consume too much of both.

“Overconsumption of durian may lead to weight gain due to its high caloric content. Large intakes of soft drinks which are energy dense and nutrient poor, is associated with an increased risk of dental caries, obesity, hypocalcemia and other chronic diseases in adulthood,” Raval said.

In a June 2020 fact check of a similar claim by Agence France-Presse (AFP) Thailand, Piyapan Prueksapanich, an adjunct assistant professor of medicine at Chulalongkorn University, said eating durian and cola is safe but must be consumed in moderation.

“Eating durian and coca-cola together is not dangerous and doesn’t toxicate your body acutely. However, just like any other sugary food, durian and coca-cola shouldn’t be eaten so frequently to avoid obesity. But it is not forbidden to eat it at the same time,” Prueksapanich told AFP Thailand.

Diabetes patients: be wary of durian and coke

Meanwhile, Bayudan and Raval warned that people with diabetes should stay away from soft drinks, which are high in sugar, and to likewise eat durian in moderation.

“Both durian and coke are high in carbohydrates, especially simple sugars. These products quickly affect blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels are, of course, detrimental to people with diabetes in general,” Bayudan said.

“Diabetic individuals are advised to regulate consumption of durian due to its sugar content. Consumption of carbonated drinks is not advised for people with diabetes or glucose intolerance as this can cause sharp rises in blood sugar levels,” Raval added.

The erroneous May 2015 post by the Sri Lankan FB user has received 11,000 reactions, more than 3,900 comments, and over 41,000 shares.

Similar claims have been debunked by Malaysian publication The Star in 2017, and by Fact Crescendo Myanmar in May 2020.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)