True or false: cola is effective in dislodging food stuck in the throat

True or false: cola is effective in dislodging food stuck in the throat

Many Internet users extol the merits of cola to try to dislodge food stuck in the throat, or more precisely between the throat and the esophagus. But is this tip really effective? No, say emergency doctors based in the Netherlands, who have carried out work to prove that the refreshing, sugary drink is of no use.

Who says end of year holidays, says tensions in emergency services, already overwhelmed the rest of the year. It is therefore not surprising to see the proliferation of prevention advice aimed at not overloading them during the traditional Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. Among the tips circulating on the internet is that of cola to avoid going to the emergency room for an endoscopy following a food swallowed wrongly – and stuck between the throat and the esophagus. The iconic drink, just like any soft drink, would break up stuck food and solve the problem in no time.

Coke to avoid an endoscopy?

A team of emergency doctors from Amsterdam UMC became interested in this tip, which is attracting more and more interest from the public, but also from health professionals. “The emergency doctor Elise Tiebie, who is behind this project, saw on the Internet that it was in fact a rumor, from advice sites to Wikipedia, including an anecdote in a British newspaper where paramedics saved a life using cola. I’ve even heard doctors recommend it“, explains Arjan Bredenoord, professor of gastroenterology at Amsterdam UMC, in a press release.

Spread across five Dutch hospitals, the authors of the study therefore wanted to test the usefulness – and effectiveness – of such a trick supposed to dissolve stuck pieces of food in order to clear the esophagus. They tested it on 51 patients waiting for an endoscopy, around half of whom received several sips of cola in the emergency waiting room. The other half received nothing at all. The scientists specify that if the patients were too embarrassed, to the point of no longer being able to swallow their saliva, they benefited from an emergency endoscopy to remove the piece of food.

No improvement

Published in the Christmas edition of the BMJ, the results showed there was no improvement with cola consumption. The study specifies, however, that the complete passage of the food was reported more often in the intervention group, but that “this difference was not significant“. Note nevertheless that this tip does not seem dangerous, health professionals specifying that “the use of cola did not cause any side effects or complications“. And to conclude: “There was no improvement when using cola to loosen food stuck in the esophagus, often the food dislodges itself after a while and if not we performed an endoscopy. We hope this puts an end to this myth“.

Every year, at the same time, the National Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) reiterates its advice for spending the end-of-year celebrations safely, even if does not necessarily concern foods swallowed incorrectly. Last year, it recommended in particular keeping button batteries out of the reach of children to avoid their ingestion, respecting the rules of use to avoid food poisoning, and being particularly careful not to ingest decorative plants such as holly, mistletoe or even poinsettia, which can be used to decorate cakes.