Man dies from eating too much liquorice

A man has died after eating too much liquorice.

The 54-year-old construction worker from Boston in the US was hospitalised after suffering cardiac arrest while eating fast food, Dr Jacqueline Henson wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr Henson added the man “gasped suddenly, with full-body shaking and loss of consciousness” and he was rushed to hospital.

Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital conducted an ultrasound and Dr Henson wrote he had “dysfunction” in the left ventricle of his heart.

“There was no history of chest pain, dyspnea, or symptoms of heart failure or dysrhythmia,” she wrote.

“He had a poor diet, consisting primarily of several packages of candy daily; three weeks earlier, he had switched the type of candy he was eating. He had no sick contacts, fever or chills, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.”

A chest radiograph is pictured next to a picture of a heart.
A radiograph of the man's chest and a look at his heart with a pulmonary-artery catheter inserted. Source: New England Journal of Medicine

He did have a history of using opiates but had stopped three years before being hospitalised and he had no family history of cardiac or respiratory problems.

Doctors questioned whether his condition could be due to his liquorice consumption. They noted succus liquiritiae, or “liquorice juice” could cause “edema, headache, and dyspnea on exertion”.

Dr Elazer Edelman wrote in his diagnosis the construction worker had suffered “metabolic, renal, vascular, and cardiac toxic effects from apparent mineralocorticoid excess due to liquorice consumption”.

Dr Neel Butala wrote within hours of hospitalisation the patient suffered low urine output before his kidneys failed to produce anymore.

“The goals of care were discussed with his family, who declined renal replacement therapy, and the patient was subsequently transitioned to comfort measures only,” Dr Butala wrote.

“He died comfortably with his family at his bedside, 32 hours after presentation.

“On the basis of additional history obtained from his family, the patient was eating one or two large packages of soft candy daily.

“Three weeks before presentation, he had switched from eating fruit-flavored soft candy to eating liquorice-flavoured soft candy that contained glycyrrhizic acid, which is converted to glycyrrhetinic acid after it is consumed.”

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