Doctors say a Massachusetts construction worker’s love of black licorice wound up costing him his life.
Eating a bag and a half every day for a few weeks threw his nutrients out of whack and caused the 54-year-old man’s heart to stop, according to a report Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“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.
The problem is glycyrrhizic acid, found in black licorice and in many other foods and dietary supplements containing licorice root extract. It can cause dangerously low potassium and imbalances in other minerals called electrolytes.
Eating as little as 2 ounces of black licorice a day for two weeks could cause a heart rhythm problem, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns.
The death was clearly an extreme case. The man had switched from red, fruit-flavored twists to the black licorice version of the candy a few weeks before his death last year. He collapsed while having lunch at a fast-food restaurant.