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FDA issues dire warning against black licorice for Halloween

Published Oct 31st, 2017 11:10AM EDT
black licorice warning
Image: Chill Mimi

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Well, it’s Halloween, which means that if there’s one day of the year where you’re going to load up on sweets it’s probably today. If you’re a big fan of black licorice you’re going to need to keep your candy habit in check, lest you want to seriously disrupt your heart and potentially even end up in the hospital or worse.

The FDA has issued a warning against munching on too much black licorice this year, noting that research into the tasty treat can lead to some incredibly serious heart issues. Irregular heartbeats — called arrhythmia — have been linked to the consumption of black licorice, and science points to the compound glycyrrhizin, which gives licorice its sweetness, as the culprit.

The compound doesn’t directly affect the heart itself, but instead causes a precipitous fall in the body’s potassium levels. Plummeting potassium can play tricks on heart rhythms, with symptoms including the telltale fluttering feeling in your chest, blood pressure spikes, swelling, and potentially even congestive heart failure. That’s some incredibly serious stuff, and no matter how much you like licorice, it’s probably best to keep your consumption in a moderate range.

According to the FDA, enjoying a bit of black licorice for a day shouldn’t be too big of a deal, but problems start popping up when you make it a recurring habit. Even as little as two ounces of black licorice consumed daily over a period of just a couple of weeks can lead to incredibly serious complications, especially if you’re 40 years of age or older.

The FDA’s advice is as follows:

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.

Or, you know, if you’re one of those sane people who doesn’t like disgusting black licorice in the first place, just stay the course and you’ll be just fine.