Avoid Licorice if You Are Low in Potassium

October 26, 2013 No Comments

We love licorice here. Yet, while it has many health benefits of its own, it can be dangerous to those with low potassium problems. The FDA and other health agencies have advised that the regular eating of licorice can cause problems for certain people. One of those problems is that it can cause potassium levels in the body to drop.

Before going further, we are talking about real licorice here. Much of the “licorice” candy sold in stores is simply candy flavored with anise oil – so chomp away. Real licorice, while generally being better, does come with an advisory though.

From the FDA website:

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.

FDA’s Linda Katz, M.D., says last year the agency received a report of a black licorice aficionado who had a problem after eating the candy. And several medical journals have linked black licorice to health problems in people over 40, some of whom had a history of heart disease and/or high blood pressure.

Katz says potassium levels are usually restored with no permanent health problems when consumption of black licorice stops.

The NIH adds that as little as 5 grams a day could cause problems -especially if licorice consumption is mixed with other behaviors. They especially noted that people who eat a lot of salt would be susceptible. A less obvious one was grapefruit consumption. Grapefruit and licorice consumption together may deplete potassium levels ever farther.

This is probably not an issue for occasional licorice eaters – but if you regularly indulge, it’s worth being aware of this.

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