No matter what the season, you just can't escape hotly contested foods. Whether the best apple pie in your state is high on your list or you just can't wait to sip pine cocktails, there is one food that you either love or hate. That food, much to everyone's dismay, is black licorice. The old-fashioned favorite has a legion of diehard fans and haters all the same, but there is something everyone should know about black licorice from the Food and Drug Administration: too much black licorice can kill you.
The FDA has some advice for those wanting to indulge in their deepest black licorice desire this year. FDA experts point to the fact that black licorice contains glycyrrhizin, a sweetening compound that comes from the licorice root. This compound, in excessive and large amounts, can cause your potassium levels to drop, leading to irregular or abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, edema, lethargy, and most terrifyingly, congestive heart failure.
Potassium levels rebound in patients when consumption stops, which brings us to poignant FDA advice:
If you're 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia.
No matter what your age, don't eat large amounts of black licorice at one time.
If you have been eating a lot of black licorice and have an irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating it immediately and contact your healthcare provider.
Black licorice can interact with some medications, herbs and dietary supplements. Consult a health care professional if you have questions about possible interactions with a drug or supplement you take.
The FDA's Linda Katz, M.D., states that several medical journals over the years have linked high black licorice consumption to health problems in consumers over 40, especially those with a history of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Used as a flavoring in food, licorice or licorice-flavored products made in the United States don't contain licorice, per se, and instead use anise oil to provide a similar smell and taste. Licorice root can be found in the dietary supplement section or on Amazon, and often has glycyrrhizin removed.
So just remember while you're playing clean-up with the kiddos' Halloween candy, black licorice might be your favorite, but it isn't worth aggravating permanent health problems or experiencing an irregular heartbeat. Maybe stick to candy corn this year instead?
This post was originally published on October 31, 2017.