The current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine describes the odd case of a middle-aged construction worker who died from eating one or two large bags of black licorice daily over a three week period. A naturally occurring compound, glycyrrhizic acid, found in black licorice can have adverse health effects if you gorge on it: in 2017, the FDA warned on its website, “If you’re 40 or older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could land you in the hospital with an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia.” If you have muscle weakness or an irregular heartbeat, you should stop eating it and call your doctor, who should also advise you possible about interactions it may have with your other medications.
The construction worker’s sudden addiction to the candy caused his heart to stop, and he collapsed at mid-day at a fast-food restaurant. Emergency responders performed CPR and revived him, but he died the next day. Dr. Neel Butala, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who was one of the authors of the case study, pronounced the lesson of the episode:
“The key message here for the general public is that food containing licorice can potentially be hazardous to your health if eaten in large quantities. I don’t think people realize it. It’s not labeled that way.”
It shouldn’t have to be labelled, should it? What isn’t potentially deadly in asbsurdly large quantities? Water can kill you. Of course candy can kill you. It’s interesting to know why, and that licorice root extract can cause dangerously low potassium and imbalances in bodily electrolytes, but honestly: who wouldn’t do a little checking if they suddenly started eating huge amounts of something that normal people only consume occasionally, if at all?
This guy, obviously. Watch his family score a large cash settlement from whatever licorice-maker the late Mr. Licorice favored.
The tragedy might have been averted if the victim had been a bit more literate. There are few virtues that have spawned more cautionary quotes than moderation, such as,
“Moderation is the key of lasting enjoyment.” Hosea Ballou
“Practice moderation in all things except love.” Gary Zukav
“In moderating, not in satisfying desires, lies peace.” Reginald Heber
“Moderation is the inseparable companion of wisdom.” Charles Caleb Colton
“Moderation in all things.” Terence
“Everything in moderation, and there’s a perfect balance in this life if we can find it.“Ryan Robbins
“Out of moderation a pure happiness springs.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.“ Marcus Tullius Cicero
“Moderation is the secret of survival.” Manly Hall
“The boundary of man is moderation. When once we pass that pale our guardian angel quits his charge of us.” Owen Feltham
“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” Epicurus
“Moderation is the silken string running through the pearl-chain of all virtues.” Joseph Hall
“Fortify yourself with moderation; for this is an impregnable fortress.” Epictetus
Of course, the only quote the construction worker really needed was,
“Don’t eat so damn much licorice!” Anonymous.