A construction worker in Massachusetts lost his life because of his love for black licorice. The man ate a bag and a half of black licorice every day for more than a week. According to doctors, that threw his nutrients out of whack and led to cardiac arrest causing death. Dr. Neel Butala, the cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, has described the case in the New England Journal of Medicine and said that even a small amount of licorice can increase your blood pressure to some extent. Glycyrrhizic acid is the active ingredient in black licorice and many other dietary supplements and foods containing root extract of licorice. According to Dr. Neel, it can cause imbalances in mineral like electrolytes and dangerously low potassium.
The doctor said that glycyrrhizic acid can cause renal failure, hypokalemia, hypertension, metabolic alkalosis, and fatal arrhythmias. All these were seen in the 54-year-old patient. U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that consumption of as little as 2 ounces of black licorice every day for just two weeks could result in a heart rhythm problem. The man had changed to black licorice version from red, fruit-flavored twists just a few weeks before his death. He suffered a heart attack while having lunch at a fast food restaurant. According to doctors, heart related problems were caused because of the dangerously low level of potassium.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits only up to 3.1 per cent of a food’s content to have glycyrrhizic acid. But many licorice products including candies don’t reveal the quantity of it present in per ounce. Doctors have reported this case with the federal agency with the hope that it will raise some awareness about the issue. Commenting on the development, a spokesperson of the Hershey Company said that all of their products are made following the FDA regulations and are safe to eat.