Black Licorice – Is it Really Dangerous?

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black licorice
Image by Nat Aggiato from Pixabay

Black licorice is one of the most commonly consumed candies around the world among all age groups from children to older adults. Although there are also other types of licorice, the black variant has received particular attention, specifically from the medical community, in the past few years.

This is because of its association with certain health circumstances that have led to chronic health conditions or even death.

The most recent case is that of a fifty-four years old man from the state of Massachusetts in the US, who reportedly experienced abnormal heartbeat followed by a cardiovascular event.

According to the doctors, one of the main contributing factors in heart failure in the case was the over-consumption of black licorice sticks. The man had been eating more than one bag of licorice per day for a time period of fourteen days.

Not only did it lead to issues such as dangerously low levels of potassium in the blood but also cut down the man’s nutrient intake as the candy does not offer significant nutritional value, which is what collectively led to death.

This was not the first death which was linked to the notorious candy, which appears as a normal, everyday candy to every person who eats it at first.

Prior to the Massachusetts case, there have been several reports of people experiencing issues such as arrhythmia, hypertension, and many others after consuming black licorice especially adults over the age of forty.

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This has led to a rising number of people questioning what exactly in the candy makes it potentially toxic to some people and how it can cause heart-related issues.

Licorice, also known as Glycyrrhiza in scientific terminology, is a plant grown in the continents of Asia and Europe. Although licorice in candy form did not become popular until the late twentieth century, it was also consumed in various forms before.

It was also added to drinks including beer for its flavor as well as used for medicinal purposes. Most commonly, licorice was assumed to relieve gastrointestinal issues, throat problems, and heartburn.

However, to this day, there is no scientific evidence to support that licorice can help in the treatment of any of the aforementioned medical conditions.

The presence of glycyrrhizic acid or “Glycyrrhizin” is what gives the plant its well-liked, sweet flavor and is also responsible for its harmful effects on the body at the same time.

Glycyrrhizin is what mainly causes an electrolyte imbalance in the body as well as low levels of the nutrient potassium, which, in turn, can cause heart abnormalities and lead to arrhythmia.

For people who take certain medicines including diuretics, eating licorice can increase the risk of deadly side effects. In addition, it should be noted that certain products also used glycyrrhizic acid or licorice extract for flavoring and can cause a similar impact.

On the other hand, some products may contain the flavor but not glycyrrhizic acid and are thus, not harmful. Overall, it is difficult to keep track of consumption which is why doctors recommend consuming black licorice or products with glycyrrhizic acid in a controlled amount only.

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