I love licorice, but a report about a man who died from overindulging licorice made me rethink my love of black licorice candy. Reportedly, a 54-year-old construction worker in Massachusetts ate so much licorice that his heart stopped. Doctors say the overindulgence caused an imbalance in his potassium levels, resulting heart failure
Overindulging black licorice kills construction worker
The construction worker’s love for black licorice had him eating about one-and-a-half bags of it each day for several weeks. However, unaware of the danger, it cost him his life. As reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, even a few licorice candies can cause blood pressure to rise.
Herbal remedy used for centuries
Using licorice root as a herbal remedy began centuries ago. It has been used to treat hepatitis, common colds and other conditions. However, there are mixed opinions about its effectiveness. It contains glycyrrhetinic acid, a potentially harmful chemical. Consuming large quantities can result in a dangerous drop in the body’s potassium levels. When this happens, it could cause arrhythmia, increased blood pressure and swelling. The result could be congestive heart failure.
Overindulging switched from red to black licorice
Reportedly, the man has been overindulging in licorice candies for some time. However, he favored the fruit-flavored red licorice twists but switched to the black version a while before his death. The construction worker collapsed at a restaurant while enjoying lunch. Emergency responders managed to revive him with CPR, but he only lived until the next day. According to the doctors, his potassium levels were dangerously low.
How much licorice is overindulging?
The United States Food and Drug Administration warns that consuming two ounces of black licorice per day for 14 days might cause an irregular heartbeat. However, eating a pound or more a day can have severe consequences. Along with the heart-related dangers, it could cause spasms in the eye’s blood vessels and impair vision temporarily. People older than 40 are more vulnerable and should control their licorice intake. Also, those taking high blood pressure medication and diuretics. Licorice could compromise the effectiveness of the drugs.
Look out for other products containing black licorice
A cardiologist at the University of Colorado says many other products contain licorice. Along with licorice sticks, watch out for licorice teas, jelly beans and even some beers.
The FDA says becoming an avid reader of labels is a good thing. It is the licorice root that is dangerous, and many manufacturers use anise to achieve a licorice flavor. Therefore, “licorice-flavored” products are safe, but also read the fine print of the list of ingredients. Furthermore, processes exist to remove the glycyrrhetinic acid. Look out for product labels with DGL markings to indicate de-glycyrrhizinated licorice.
The bottom line is, regardless of how much we enjoy particular food or candy, moderation instead of overindulging is advised.