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Black licorice is one of those things that you either love or hate. If you fall in the former category and you enjoy black licorice, here’s something you should know: The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has just announced that black licorice is potentially harmful to your heart health.
Why? Because it contains glycyrrhizin. This funny-sounding word is the part of the licorice plant that gives it that sweet taste. However, this news isn’t so sweet: Eating too much glycyrrhizin can potentially impact your potassium levels.
This could cause hypokalemia, a condition that occurs when potassium levels in the blood are too low. Symptoms of hypokalemia can include vomiting, diarrhea, adrenal disorders and an irregular heart beat. As a result of these concerns, the FDA says that people over the age of 40 should not eat more than 2 ounces of black licorice a day for two or more weeks.
But don’t worry—one small piece of black licorice won’t cause your body any undue distress. Just make sure you aren’t going overboard. You can also enjoy red licorice without concern, as the red version is not actually made from licorice root. Instead, it is fruit-flavored and has no actual licorice at all, which means you don’t have to worry about glycyrrhizin.
Nor does this mean that licorice root has no health benefits. Just the opposite, in fact: Historically, people have taken licorice root to help combat digestive issues such as ulcers and heartburn, and others swear it’s an effective treatment for sore throat and bronchitis.
Of course, if you want to explore the possible benefits of licorice, you probably want to consider a licorice supplement or tea, rather than eating a sugary piece of candy. However, remember, just because something is natural and made by Mother Earth doesn’t mean that it is safe for everyone. Talk to your doctor before beginning any supplements and make sure there are no dangerous interactions with any medications you are taking.
And, remember, enjoy that black licorice in moderation!