When I was a kid my brothers and I had an aunt who would always tell her brother, my grandfather, not to eat black licorice.

"It will kill you," she said. "My doctor tells me not to eat it because of my high blood pressure, and you have high blood pressure too," she would say.

My grandfather loved black licorice as well as those black jelly beans that would only come out around Easter time. He would always be offering me and my brothers the candy and we would always say no because none of us liked that licorice taste. Black licorice tastes bitter, sweet, salty and sour, all at once. I didn't like it then and I don't particularly like it today.

Now, back to the part where my aunt kept telling my grandfather it was dangerous. It turns out, it really can be hazardous to your health. She was right.

“Even a small amount of licorice you eat can increase your blood pressure a little bit,” said Dr. Neel Butala, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, speaking to the Associated Press. The ingredient that causes the problem is glycyrrhizic, found in black licorice flavoring which comes naturally from the licorice root.

In Massachusetts, a 54 year old construction worker died last year when his heart suddenly stopped, according to doctors. The case was recently reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to the report, the man had been eating more than a bag a day of the black licorice Twizzlers for about two-weeks. He collapsed while eating at a fast food restaurant. Doctors found that he had dangerously low potassium, which led to heart rhythm and other problems, according to the Associated Press report.

A representative from Hershey, which makes Twizzlers, told the AP that the licorice twists are safe, but all candy should be eaten in moderation.

I know for a fact that my aunt listened to her doctor and avoided black licorice. At the same time, I'm also pretty sure my grandfather didn't. He lived into his 80s.


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