Trick or Treat? Black Licorice May Not Be Good for the over 40s, Experts Say

By Fiona Howard on October 31, 2011


DON’T eat too much of Black Licorice! The Food & Drugs Administration warns the public to control their consumption of black licorice for health reasons.

The sweet, tangy and chewy black licorice is a traditional Halloween treat that Britons love.  But this coming Trick or Treat, the FDA warns the public of the possible health risks associated to it.  Last year, there have been a number of incidents related to too much consumption of licorice, added FDA.

Negative Effects of Black Licorice to One’s Health

According to food experts, consuming black licorice can actually lead to heart-related problems like arrhythmia – a condition wherein the heart is beating irregularly.  Over 40s are advised not to eat too much of black licorice.  Experts added that consuming at least 2 ounces of this candy is enough to hospitalize an adult because of the rapid pounding of the heart.   Aside from the health effects, licorice may also interfere with medications.  So people age 40 and up and who are going through medical treatments may divert their attention to some sweet treats (not candy) to enjoy Halloween party without having to sacrifice their health.

According to FDA, overeating licorice may also lead to the rapid decrease in the person’s potassium level.  Potassium is a natural mineral that is needed by the body to stimulate cellular activities.  It is essential for keeping one’s energy sufficient by converting carbohydrates into energy.  It balances the level of acids and bases in the body, helps build muscle tissues, and maintains the electrical activity to keep the heartbeat’s rate normal.  Other side effects that adult people may experience after eating too much of licorice are edema or swelling, lethargy or feeling of lousiness, high blood pressure, and worst – heart failure.

Nonetheless, the potassium level will eventually go back once you stop eating licorice.  This is according to Dr Linda Katz from the Center of Food Safety & Applied Nutrition, FDA.  She added that the negative effects of overeating licorice will not bear permanent health problems on the patient.

The Culprit behind Black Licorice

The culprit behind the negative effects of black licorice is the chemical called glycyrrhizin.  This is the chemical compound found in the roots of licorice that is responsible for the sweet taste of the candy.  Glycyrrhizin causes the potassium level to drop down significantly.

But then, this warning is not exclusively addressed to people over 40.  FDA said that anyone, regardless of their age can not escape the possible danger that too much consumption of black licorice brings.  The agency gives the following tips for people who love eating licorice:

-          Once you feel like your heart is beating abnormally, stop eating licorice and see a doctor as soon as possible

-          Heed your doctor’s advice before eating licorice if you are taking medications whether is herbal or dietary supplements

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