A construction worker from Massachusetts loves black licorice so much that he ended up overeating, and it cost him his life. The man ate a bag and a half of black licorice every day for a couple of weeks.
Dangers of eating too much licorice
The over-consumption of black licorice threw his nutrients off, and it caused the 54-year-old man's heart to stop, according to doctors who reported the incident on September 23.
According to Dr. Neel Butala, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, even a small amount of licorice that you eat can increase your blood pressure a bit. He described the case in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Glycyrrhizic acid is the problem, it is found in black licorice and in many other foods and dietary supplements containing licorice root extract. It can cause low potassium in dangerously low levels, and it imbalances other minerals such as electrolytes.
Eating as little as 2 ounces of black licorice a day for two weeks could cause a heart rhythm problem, especially for those who are over 40 years of age, according to the U.S Food and Drug Administration.
Dr. Robert Eckel, a University of Colorado cardiologist and former American Heart Association president, the glycyrrhizic acid is not just found in licorice sticks, it is also in jelly beans, licorice teas, and other things that can be bought over the counter. Dr. Eckel also warned that glycyrrhizic acid is also found in some beers like Belgian beers.
The death of the man, who is unnamed for privacy reasons, was an extreme case. He switched from red, fruit-flavored twists to the black licorice version of the candy a few weeks before he died. He collapsed while he was having lunch at a fast-food restaurant.
Doctors found out that he had dangerously low potassium, which led to heart rhythm and other problems. Emergency responders did CPR, and he revived, but he died the next day, according to The Washington Post.
The FDA permits up to 3.1% of a food's content to have glycyrrhizic acid, but a lot of candies and other licorice products don't reveal how much of it is contained per ounce. Doctors have reported the case to the FDA to help raise attention to the risk.
Jeff Beckman, a spokesman for the Hershey Company, which makes Twizzlers licorice twists, said that all of their products are safe to eat and are formulated in full compliance with FDA regulations.
Potassium is important in generating muscle contractions and regulating the heartbeat. It also plays a massive role in energy metabolism.
Potassium helps the body build proteins from amino acids and metabolize carbohydrates from energy. It also helps your body convert glucose or sugar into glycogen, which is then stored in the liver so that you have the energy to run, walk, or do other activities.
Very low potassium can kill you, and very high potassium can kill you. It is important to get the right balance. The symptoms are vague, but having low potassium or high potassium includes muscle weakness, muscle twitching, and muscle cramping, especially at night.