Scientists from Mountainview Hospital found too much black licorice intake may cause dangerously low potassium levels in the body.
Liquorice or licorice is a confection usually flavored and colored black with the extract of the roots of the liquorice plant.
Licorice root is cultivated throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. It is used as a flavoring in candy, other foods, beverages, and tobacco products.
Although licorice root is generally considered safe as a food ingredient, it can cause serious side effects, including increased blood pressure and decreased potassium levels, when consumed in large amounts or for long periods of time.
Previous research found that people who consume a large amount of black licorice are at risk of developing an autosomal recessive disorder.
The disorder can cause hypertension (high blood pressure), hypernatremia (increased blood sodium level), and hypokalemia (decreased blood potassium level).
In the current study, researchers report a unique case of a 74-year-old woman with a medical history of impaired regulation of standing blood pressure due to autonomic dysfunction.
The woman was presented to the emergency department with moderate low potassium (2.4 mmol/L).
During her hospital stay, the team discovered that the patient was consuming too much black licorice.
With this information, the researchers found the interaction of the drug fludrocortisone and black licorice was the cause of the patient’s severely low potassium.
Fludrocortisone, sold under the brand name Florinef, among others, is a corticosteroid used to treat postural hypotension, a form of low blood pressure that happens when standing after sitting or lying down.
The woman was treated with multiple courses of potassium repletion.
Upon discharge, her drug fludrocortisone was discontinued, and she was prescribed medication to treat her postural hypertension.
The team suggests that while small amounts of black licorice are safe, excessive licorice intake can cause severe disease.
The research was published in Cureus and conducted by Elizabeth Benge et al.
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