The man, a Massachusetts construction worker, lost consciousness at a fast food restaurant and was taken to hospital, where he died the next day.
Doctors write that he had a “poor diet, consisting mainly of several packs of sweets a day,” and that three weeks earlier he had switched from eating soft, fruit-flavored candies to licorice candies that contained glycyrrhizinic acid.
CNN contacted Dr. Elazer Edelman, one of the study’s authors, and is awaiting a response.
People 40 and older should be especially vigilant about consuming licorice: even 2 ounces a day for two weeks can cause an irregular heartbeat and may require hospitalization, the FDA warns.
The negative effects of eating too much licorice are reversible and weaken when consumption is interrupted. It may take 1 to 2 weeks for normal potassium levels to return, according to the study.
Fortunately, there are safe alternatives. According to the NIH, many licorice products available in the United States do not actually contain licorice, but rather anise oil, which is comparable in taste.