Black liquorice: trick or treat?


With Halloween past and Christmas holidays fast approaching, health bodies are warning about the dangers of too much of the old-fashioned favourite

For those of you who hate the taste of black liquorice, what I’m about to tell you will just be another nail in the coffin for the controversial confectionery.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently reminded liquorice lovers to eat the lolly (or “candy”) in moderation.

The FDA warns that if you’re 40 or older, eating 2 ounces (57 grams) of black liquorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia.

FDA experts say black liquorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound derived from liquorice root. Glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to fall.

When that happens, some people experience abnormal heart rhythms, as well as high blood pressure, oedema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure.

Dr Linda Katz from the FDA says last year the agency received a report of a black liquorice eater who had a problem after too much of the confectionery.

And several medical journals have linked black liquorice to health problems in people over 40, some of whom had a history of heart disease and/or high blood pressure.

Dr Katz says potassium levels are usually restored with no permanent health problems when consumption of black liquorice stops.

If you have a fondness for black liquorice, FDA is offering this advice:

  • No matter what your age, don’t eat large amounts of black liquorice at one time.
  • If you have been eating a lot of black liquorice and have an irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating it immediately and contact your healthcare provider.
  • Black liquorice 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.

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