Deadly licorice habit: Man dies after eating bag and a half daily for weeks, doctors say

Who knew that the daily consumption of black licorice could be deadly? Doctors said a construction worker in Massachusetts ate a bag and a half of the candy every day for weeks. The habit ended up throwing his nutrients into a tailspin, causing the 54-year-old man’s heart to stop, The Associated Press reported.

A chemical in licorice called glycyrrhizic acid can cause potassium levels to plummet and cause electrolytes to go out of balance.

The Food and Drug Administration said as little as two ounces of black licorice every day could get your heart out of rhythm, especially if you’re over the age of 40.

It’s not only standard licorice that can cause problems. The compound found in licorice root extract can also be found in jelly beans, teas and even beer and chewing tobacco, experts told the AP.

The man, who was not identified in a case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, had previously eaten red licorice, but had switched to black licorice weeks before he died last year. The 54-year-old man collapsed at a restaurant and doctors discovered his potassium level was dangerously low, which caused heart rhythm problems and other health issues. First responders performed CPR and revived him but he died the next day, the AP reported.

Signs of low potassium levels include not only abnormal heart rhythms but also high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy and congestive heart failure, the FDA said.

Licorice has been used as a folk or traditional remedy in treatment for heartburn, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throat, cough and infections, the FDA said.

Many products that are labeled licorice or have licorice flavor have anise oil instead of licorice root. When used as a dietary supplement, licorice root usually has the glycyrrhizin removed, the National Institutes of Health said.

Health experts also warn that black licorice can have an effect when combined with some medications, herbs and supplements. Ask a doctor if you have concerns about side effects, the FDA suggested.

A Hershey Company spokesperson said the company’s Twizzlers licorice is safe to eat and abides by FDA regulations, but added that all foods “should be enjoyed in moderation.”