Scientists from Santa Maria Della Misericordia General Hospital found that long-term intake of licorice could strongly harm one’s health.
Licorice that contains glycyrrhizin is possibly unsafe when consumed in large amounts or for a long time.
Glycyrrhizin is a plant glycoside extracted from the roots of the licorice plant. It is about 30–50 times sweeter than sucrose, but is not metabolized and has little effect on blood sugar.
Recent research found that eating licorice 5 grams or more daily for several weeks can cause severe side effects including heart attack.
Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare disorder in which your body’s immune system attacks your nerves.
Weakness and tingling in your extremities are usually the first symptoms. These sensations can quickly spread, eventually paralyzing your whole body.
GBS may be complicated by severe high blood pressure and in turn, severe high blood pressure can occur with neurological damage mimicking a GBS.
In this study, the team reported a case of a 62-year-old woman who went to the emergency department for high blood pressure crisis with symmetric flaccid paralysis, hypotonia, and hyporeflexia of both upper and lower limbs.
Flaccid paralysis is a neurological condition characterized by weakness or paralysis and reduced muscle tone without other obvious cause.
Low muscle tone is used to describe muscles that are floppy, which is also known as hypotonia. Hyporeflexia refers to a condition in which your muscles are less responsive to stimuli.
The team ran a few studies, including brain computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and lumbar puncture. All results were normal.
But lab tests showed that the patient suffered severe hypokalemia (low potassium level), kidney failure, liver impairment, rabdomyolysis (breakdown of skeletal muscle fibers), metabolic alkalosis (when digestive issues disrupt the blood’s acid-base balance), and high blood pressure.
The researchers also found that continuous potassium replacement led to complete recovery in the patient.
They checked the patient’s detailed diet history and found that she had a chronic intake of 250 g/day of black licorice.
Researchers suggest that in this case, an apparent mineralocorticoid excess (AME) syndrome was induced by chronic intake of liquorice.
AME is an autosomal recessive disorder characterized by high blood pressure, low potassium, low renin, and low hormone aldosterone.
Licorice contains the glycyrrhetic acid that leads to an aldosterone-like effect and causes high blood pressure, low potassium, low renin, and other complications.
These findings suggest that liquorice-induced high blood pressure with severe metabolic problems is a rare condition and the reason for the muscle paralysis is still more unusual.
The researchers suggest that before testing middle-aged people with high blood pressure crisis and brain impairment, it is important to check a detailed clinical history of the patient.
The research is published in High Blood Pressure & Cardiovascular Prevention and was conducted by Alberto Mazza et al.
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