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Black Licorice: A Treat that Can Play a Trick on Your Heart

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  October 23, 2013 05:19 PM

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Photo Source:  FDA
Consuming excess sugar and calories from candy is not the only health issues that you may need to be concerned about this Halloween season.  The FDA warns lovers of black licorice candy that consuming too much may not be sweet for your heart.   According to the FDA, if you’re 40 or older, eating multiple, 2 ounce bags of black licorice a day for at least two weeks, could put you are risk for heart arrhythmias.

It appears that black licorice contains a sweetening compound, glycyrrhizin, which is derived from the licorice root.       Glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to drop.  When this occurs, some folks may experience abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, swelling or edema, lethargy, and even congestive heart failure.  Articles published in medical journals have linked black licorice these health issues in folks who are 40 years of age or older, especially those with a history of heart problems and/or high blood pressure.

Luckily, many of the licorice candy and products on the market do not actually contain any real licorice. Instead, they contain anise oil, which smells and taste like the real stuff but without the health problems, according to the FDA.

If black licorice is your favorite candy, here’s the advice from the FDA:

1. Don't eat a large amount of black licorice at one time, no matter what age you are!

2. If you do consume it and experience an irregular heart rhythms or muscle weakness, stop eating it and call your healthcare provider.

3. Black licorice can also interact with some medications, herbs, and dietary supplements. Consult your healthcare professional should you have any questions regarding potential interactions.
      If you experience any problems when consuming black licorice, please notify the FDA Consumer Complaint Coordinator here.
      Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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