Candy overdose: Man dies from bag-a-day black licorice habit

Candy overdose: Man dies from bag-a-day black licorice habit

A Massachusetts construction worker suddenly collapsed at lunch with his co-workers and later died in what doctors say was a major heart issue brought on by his love for black licorice .

The man, 54, ultimately died because he ate a bag-and-a-half of licorice after work every day for several weeks, according to a case study published recently in the . The black licorice contained glycyrrhizic acid, a chemical that raises a person’s blood pressure and lowers their potassium levels, especially when consumed in large amounts.

It was the man’s candy habit that killed him, according to Dr. Neel Butala, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of the case study.

The glycyrrhizic acid also left the man with dangerously low potassium levels and an imbalance in his electrolytes, Butala says.

First responders revived the man through CPR but he died the following day, according to the case study.

Glycyrrhizic acid can be found in many licorice-derived foods and dietary supplements, but concentrations should not exceed 3.1 per cent, according to rules from the U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA). However, the FDA doesn’t regulate glycyrrhizic acid concentration by the ounce, which means it can be hard to know how much is in a bag of black licorice.

As little as 57 grams (2 ounces) of glycyrrhizic acid a day can cause heart rhythm problems within a matter of two weeks, especially for people over 40, the FDA says .

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Licorice sticks are not the only source of glycyrrhizic acid, according to Dr. Robert Eckel, a University of Colorado cardiologist and former president of the American Heart Association.

“It could be jelly beans, licorice teas, a lot of things over the counter,” said Eckel, who was not involved in the man’s case. “Even some beers, like Belgian beers, have this compound in it.”
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