Black licorice kills U.S. construction worker

black licorice

Construction workers have learned to take safety measures to protect themselves from a variety of serious on-the-job-hazards, but probably few would consider the life-threatening risk of eating black licorice.

However, the New England Journal of Medicine reported recently that a 54-year old Massachusetts construction worker died after eating the confection every day for a “few weeks”.

The journal reported the unnamed 54-year-old man died in a fast-food restaurant while having lunch after consuming a bag and a half of black licorice. He experienced “full-body shaking and a loss of consciousness,” according to the published study.

The Associated Press, citing the study, reported: “He had a poor diet, consisting primarily of several packages of candy daily,” before noting that three “weeks earlier, he had switched the type of candy he was eating” to black licorice, the study found.

The study also said that licorice’s glycyrrhizic acid (usually found in the candy’s extract) can cause the “unimpeded presence of cortisol,” which in turn “can cause hypertension, hypokalemia, metabolic alkalosis, fatal arrhythmias, and renal failure — the constellation of signs and symptoms seen in this patient.”

The Journal‘s findings listed the following as the diagnosis of Dr. Elazer R. Edelman, a doctor cited in the study: “Metabolic, renal, vascular, and cardiac toxic effects from apparent mineralocorticoid excess due to licorice consumption.”

The man also smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for 36 years and had a medical history that “included previous heroin use disorder and untreated hepatitis C virus infection.”

While this news may cause some black licorice eaters to consider moderating their consumption of the confection, it is unlikely there will be a need to change construction safety training regulations to deal with the problem.


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