A Massachusetts construction worker was killed by his licorice habit, doctors say.
The man, who has not been named but was 54 years old, ate about one-and-a-half bags of black licorice every day.
“Even a small amount of licorice you eat can increase your blood pressure a little bit,” said Dr. Neel Butala, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who described the case in the New England Journal of Medicine.
He had suffered no symptoms before suddenly going into cardiac arrest in a fast food restaurant.
Describing the man’s case in the New England Journal of Medicine, his doctors said the glycyrrhizic acid in liquorice was to blame. It can cause dangerously low potassium and imbalances in other minerals called electrolytes.
Glycyrrhizic acid can also cause “hypertension, hypokalemia, metabolic alkalosis, fatal arrhythmias, and renal failure” – all of which were seen in this patient.
Hypokalemia is when a person’s potassium levels in their blood become dangerously low.
The patient had also recently changed the type of sweets he was eating. A few weeks before his death, he switched from red fruit-flavoured twists to another type made with black licorice.
According to the FDA, if you’re 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks can cause irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia.
New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)