The highly esteemed American author Ray Bradbury once said, “Too much of anything isn’t good for anyone.”
This, unfortunately, also holds true for a very popular choice of candy: black licorice.
Recently, a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts passed away from eating one to two bags of black licorice candy every day for three weeks. The man, who was not named, did not have any pre-existing heart issues and received enough exercise on a daily basis as a construction worker. He suddenly collapsed in a restaurant and lost consciousness after experiencing irregular heart rhythm problems. Efforts to revive him were not successful.
This has once again brought to light the health effects of this popular candy and the warnings from medical professionals.
How Did Black Licorice Affect Him?
Black licorice at first may seem to be just a classic favorite for candy, but upon closer inspection, it contains a compound known as glycyrrhizic acid.
Glycyrrhizic acid is extracted from the roots of low-growing licorice plants, which are native to South Africa but most commonly produced in Turkey, Greece, and Asia. Traditionally, this extract was used in herbal medicines and teas to treat asthma, dry cough, bronchitis, and some infections caused by viruses.
Nowadays, it is often used as a sweetener in candies, beverages, and chewing gum. However, what is most alarming about this compound is that too much of it can cause the levels of a crucial nutrient to the human body -- potassium, to drop to dangerously low levels. This can result in many health issues, including high blood pressure, abnormal heartbeat, swelling, and even heart failure.
Should We Still Consume Black Licorice?
Doctors urge children and adults alike to always take caution when eating black licorice and never to consume too much of it at one time. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) also warns adults 40 or older to be especially careful, as consuming just two ounces of it every day can cause heart issues.
Despite how unnerving the health effects of overconsuming black licorice may sound, snackers who enjoy this old-fashioned classic should not be startled. An occasional piece of black licorice will not be harmful, but like everything else, it is best to be eaten in moderation.
With the excitement of trick-or-treating and Halloween just around the corner, it becomes even more important for people to develop a healthy diet and a balanced lifestyle. According to doctors, we can do so by cooking more homemade meals rather than eating at fast-food restaurants, adding more fruits, nuts, and vegetables into our diet, listening to our bodies, and exercising regularly.
Sources: Science Direct, Live Science, New York Times, Food & Drug Administration, BBC, Mayo Clinic