Real black licorice can lead to abnormal heart rhythms

October 23, 2012 

Think goblins, ghosts and zombies are the scariest part of Halloween? What about abnormal heart rhythms? Yeah, scarier, huh. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration too much black licorice can lead to abnormal heart rhythms, as well as high blood pressure, lethargy and congestive heart failure.

“Black licorice contains glycyrrhizin, a chemical compound that can trigger a dangerous drop in potassium levels. When potassium runs low, heart rhythms fluctuate and blood pressure can rise causing swelling, stupor, even heart failure – where sufficient pumping action ceases and blood flow is reduced to the rest of the body,” explained Dr. Srinivas Iyengar, a cardiologist at Bradenton Cardiology Center, in a news release.

Check those candy labels. This warning only applies to real black licorice, not artificially flavored licorice made with anise oil.

Beware moms and dads sneaking candy from the kids' trick-or-treat bags. People over age 40 are most at risk. Consuming two ounces of black licorice a day for two weeks could land someone in the hospital with a heart arrhythmia.

“Those with high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease are even more susceptible to black licorice’s effects,” Dr. Iyengar said in a news release.

Don't panic if you've consumed black licorice in the past. As a person stops consuming the candy, potassium levels are quickly restored, according to the news release.

Dr. Iyengar also warned: “Black licorice can also interact with some medications and dietary supplements, so talk to your doctor if you eat the sweet regularly."

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