It has always struck me as hilarious how people can be so divisive about certain foods or herbs. Like cilantro. People love it or hate it -- and the haters just love to hate it. Same thing with black licorice. Seriously, who knew such an old-fashioned candy could incite such strong, visceral responses?! When we were eating jelly beans in The Stir offices recently, we were definitely split into two camps on the subject -- the black licorice lovers vs. the black licorice haters. And although we ended up agreeing to disagree, the haters can now rejoice, because researchers have found the candy is more than just unappetizing to some people.
The FDA claims that eating too much black licorice can lead to heart arrhythmias and other health problems. Yeah, apparently, just 2 ounces of the candy a day for two weeks can mess with your heart. Eeeek!
That's because a compound found in the treat called glycyrrhizin causes the kidneys to excrete potassium, and low levels of potassium can cause dangerously fast or erratic heartbeats. Oh, and of course, women on birth control should be extra-careful about licorice, because it can drive up your blood pressure (due to the potassium effect). (But unless you're something of a black licorice ADDICT, there are plenty of other much more major concerns beyond this when you're on the Pill!)
Now, although this will certainly give haters plenty of ammunition, a.) I'm not sure how many people eat that much licorice a day, b.) it's only said to mess with the hearts of "susceptible individuals," and c.) there are plenty of benefits to licorice as well. In fact, it's been used as a cure-all in some parts of the world for centuries -- said to treat heartburn, bronchitis, viral infections, etc. Obviously, licorice in its sugary candy form couldn't be considered real medicine. Most people take deglycyrrhizinated licorice supplements for any of these ailments.
But seems to me the FDA has MANY bigger, more important issues to examine and warn us about. After all, there are probably more people out there who HATE black licorice than those who are gorging themselves on it!
What do you think about this warning? Are you a black licorice fan?
Image via Jessica Merz/Flickr