A recent study has shown that a 54-year-old man died as a result of eating too much licorice.
The man, a construction worker from Massachusetts, lost consciousness inside a fast-food restaurant. He was taken to a hospital, where he died the next day.
Doctors wrote that he had “a poor diet, consisting primarily of several packages of candy daily,” and that three weeks before, he switched from eating fruit-flavored soft candy to licorice candy, which contained glycyrrhizic acid.
Glycyrrhizic acid, or glycyrrhizin, a sweetening compound derived from licorice root. It can cause a drop in potassium levels in the body, which in turn may cause high blood pressure, swelling, abnormal heart rhythms and even heart failure.
People 40 or older should be especially vigilant about their black licorice consumption. Even 60grams per day, over a two-week period, could cause irregular heart rhythm.
However, the scientists also said that negative effects of eating too much licorice are reversible, and stop when consumption is halted. A return to normal potassium levels may take one to two weeks, according to the study.
Luckily, there are safe alternatives. According to the NIH, many licorice products available in the US don’t actually contain licorice, but rather anise oil, which is comparable in flavor.