The man, a construction worker, had no complaints in the period leading up to his death, the researchers write in the New England Journal of Medicine. They say that one overdosis glycyrrhizine, a constituent of licorice root extract, must have killed him.
Acute kidney problems
Glycyrrhizine is in liquorice and liquorice tea, among other things. If you take in a lot of it, your body retains water and your blood pressure can increase. In addition, the substance can lead to acute kidney problems and deadly cardiac arrhythmias, the scientists write.
Until a few weeks before his death, the man mainly ate red licorice with fruit flavor. The fact that he exchanged it for black licorice is almost certainly the reason for his death. As a result, he appeared to have developed hypokalaemia, a sudden drop in the potassium level in the blood.
Glycyrrhizin is a poison from the roots of a shrub that is found in countries such as Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Iran and China. The substance is indispensable in licorice and liquorice. Because of their predilection for licorice, the Dutch get relatively much inside, says the Nutrition Center.
Licorice root extract is not only found in licorice and licorice water, but also in liquorice flavored beers, certain herbal teas, liqueurs such as pastis and sambuca, cough syrups, throat lozenges and chewing gum with licorice flavor, and in tobacco.
20 licorice a day, less children
According to the Netherlands Nutrition Center, most people can safely eat up to about 20 liquorice a day. This is less for certain risk groups, such as pregnant women and people with high blood pressure. Children should not eat more than 25 grams of licorice per day, about 5 licorice.