Geek Trivia

Which Of These Common Candies Puts You At Risk For Heart Problems?

Saltwater Taffy
Peanut Brittle
What Significant 20th Century Pharmaceutical Discovery Sat Unused For Over A Decade?

Answer: Licorice

We all know too many sweets are bad for you as excess sugar consumption leads to weight gain, is hard on our pancreas, and can even lead to diabetes in the long run, but some sweets may do you in much, much, sooner than others.

If you find yourself eating huge amounts of licorice, you won’t have to wait decades to develop a metabolic disease, as it will do you in long before retirement age is upon you. Black licorice contains glycyrrhizin, a sweet compound found in the licorice root that is preserved during the candy creation process. In addition to its sweet flavor, glycyrrhizin can also cause potassium levels in the body to fall and prolonged licorice consumption (two ounces of real licorice a day for two weeks) is enough to give adults abnormal heart rhythms, elevated blood pressure, swelling, and even congestive heart failure.

If you’re a licorice fan don’t panic quite yet. Not only is two ounces a day for weeks on end a high amount, but many “licorice” treats don’t actually contain real licorice but are instead flavored with anise oil which has the same smell and flavor profile. If you are purchasing real honest to goodness licorice, you can either limit your consumption or shop carefully and purchase deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) which has the heart-troubling compound removed.

Image courtesy of the FDA.