A 54-year-old man working in buildings living in Massachusetts had a cardiac arrest at a fast food restaurant. Despite resuscitation efforts, he died.

The case is described in a prestigious medical publication New England Journal of Medicinessä. Doctors said the man died because he ate too much licorice. The actual cause of death was glycyrrhizin, or licorice acid, contained in licorice.

– We were told that this patient had unhealthy eating habits and he ate a lot of caramels. We decided to investigate whether the caramels were to blame for his death, the doctor says Elazer R. Edelman, one of the authors of the study.

Several side effects

Edelman says studies have shown that licorice acid can cause high blood pressure, hypokalemia (abnormally low levels of potassium in the blood), alkalosis (extracellular fluids become more alkaline), arrhythmias, and kidney failure.

– All these symptoms were noticeable in this patient, says Edelman.

In the past, the man had popped a considerable amount of red fruit candies daily. A couple of weeks before his death, he had switched to black licorice, which consumed about one and a half bags a day.

Another doctor involved in the study Andrew L. Lundquist says their research shows that switching from fruit candies to licorice was fatal in the case of a 54-year-old man.