Massachusetts Man Dies After Black Licorice Habit

A man in Massachusetts is dead after eating black licorice, doctors say. It wasn't that the man ate the candy once and died, it was a habit that ultimately led to clogged arteries stemming from the treat. “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 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The man was eating a bag and a half every day for a few weeks, which threw his nutrients out of whack and caused the 54-year-old man’s heart to stop. The FDA permits up to 3.1 percent of a food’s content to have glycyrrhizic acid, but many candies and other licorice products don’t reveal how much of it is contained per ounce, Butala said. The problem is glycyrrhizic acid, found in black licorice and in many other foods and dietary supplements containing licorice root extract. “It’s more than licorice sticks. It could be jelly beans, licorice teas, a lot of things over the counter. Even some beers, like Belgian beers, have this compound in it,” as do some chewing tobaccos, said Dr. Robert Eckel.

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