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Black Death? Why You Should Take It Easy On That Licorice

Black Death? Why You Should Take It Easy On That Licorice

From the “Sucks to be over 40 file”:

Halloween is upon us, and this means several things for parents. Besides last minutes costume adjustments for demanding children it also means attempting to stem the tide of candy about to wash over your child. While some parents take a relative laissez faire approach to their child’s candy consumption, other parents do their best to run a sort of interference, and try to limit their child’s post Halloween consumption to less than 100 grams of sugar (per hour). No matter what your Halloween candy policy might be, there is always left over candy in the trick or treat bag that is either too weird or too unappealing for your child indulge in, and it is up to parents to dispose of as they see fit. One usual suspect in this line up is almost always black licorice. Most kids just don’t develop a taste for it until adulthood, and therefore it is left to parents to begrudgingly consume it. But not so fast parents, unless of course you want to wind up face down in the driveway on November 1st.

While I am overstating the danger involved in black licorice consumption, it is true that the FDA has issued a warning, not to children, but to adults not to consume excessive amounts of black licorice. Why you ask? Well, even though your children can consume their weight in candy and seemingly survive the metabolic disaster that sugar had inflicted, adults (over the age of 40) consuming excessive amounts of black licorice can actually overdo it, to a degree that may adversely impact their health. Sure you can consume too much of anything (including some of the healthier items like coconut water, flax seeds and the like) but eating two ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia. So stop eating it now before you hit that 14-day mark!

According to a report, FDA experts say black licorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin, which is the sweetening compound derived from licorice 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, edema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure. So while your child is jittery and bouncing off the walls after consuming countless chocolate treats, you (my 40-year plus brethren) might be clutching your chest with licorice sweet breath.

If you have a fondness for black licorice, FDA is offering this advice:
• 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.

But really, if you are consuming this much black licorice, for days on end, you likely have larger problems than low potassium levels and possible heart failure. Try to enjoy the holiday, vicariously through your children, or at least in moderation, with a taste of black licorice here and there but with the awareness that, on this day of the dead, it is better to be of the living.

Read more: Blogs, Following Food, Food, General Health, Halloween, Health, Heart & Vascular Disease, , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

70 comments

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9:31AM PST on Nov 12, 2011

o.O It is supposed to be good for you also, I agree it's a bit of a scare mongering piece you wrote up

6:35AM PST on Nov 8, 2011

Interesting...

12:26PM PST on Nov 6, 2011

I'm so happy that I HATE licorce!

10:46AM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

Hmm... good thing I never liked licorice, anyway.

5:09PM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

Isn't licorice supposed to be good for digestion? I guess just like everything - in moderation.

11:54AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

Wow!

Who knew black licorace could cause drug interactions & be possibly life threatening.

Good thing i hate it!

Another reason to switch to red or grape licorice. Yum!

And they better not tell us in the near future that this licorice can kill ya too.

Or ...... Argghh!!!!.

11:49AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

Wow!

Who knew black licorice could cause drug interactions & be possibly life threatening.

Good thing i hate it.

Another reason to switch to red or grape licorice. Yum !!

5:50AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

I don't think anyone who like me likes black licorice would indulge in 2 ounces a day. One or two peices a month usually
satisfies me. More would turn me against it.

5:41AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

Love black licorice, always have. My Grandpa used to keep a small white paper bag of it in his side table by his chair. They were round hard disks of nice chewy black licorice, and we would always try to get one, even as a kid!!!!

3:10AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

My husband and young son absolutely adore black licorice.
The real stuff. I sometimes buy it for them as a treat, and they of course have their own supply. I will be careful about it in future, especially as C. Leduc referred to the glaucoma connection. In my husband's family, unfortunately, glaucoma is a big problem.
Thanks Eric and C. Leduc.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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