Man Dies From Eating Too Much Black Licorice

Black licorice is a love it or hate it kind of candy, and according to a story from The Associated Press, solid scientific evidence says you should forgo the candy.

That is because a Massachusetts construction worker suffered a tragic death caused by black licorice when the 54-year-old man’s heart stopped. He collapsed while having lunch at a fast-food restaurant. Emergency responders did CPR and he revived but died the next day.

The man was known to love black licorice and reportedly consumed a bag and a half every day for a few weeks leading up to the cardiac event that took his life. Doctors found he had dangerously low potassium, which led to an irregular heart rhythm and other problems.

Turns out that his black licorice consumption can lead to nutrient imbalances which raise blood pressure to potentially fatal levels. The candy is derived from licorice root extract which contains glycyrrhizic acid - known for depleteing electrolytes like potassium. The low electrolyte levels cause the heart to work harder and blood pressures spike.

Dr. Neel Butala, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said “even a small amount of licorice you eat can increase your blood pressure a little bit.”

Eating as little as 2 ounces of black licorice a day for two weeks could cause a heart rhythm problem according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. People over 40 years old are at an even higher risk.

“It’s more than licorice sticks. It could be jelly beans, licorice teas, a lot of things over the counter. Even some beers, like Belgian beers, have this compound in it,” as do some chewing tobaccos, said Dr. Robert Eckel, a University of Colorado cardiologist and former American Heart Association president.