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Dr. Edwards' Blog

New FDA Warning About Certain Halloween Candy - 10/31/17

It's Halloween.  And chances are your little costumed characters will bring home big bags of sweets tonight and pour them out to inspect their treasures.  Amidst the chocolate bars and taffy treats, there may be some black licorice.  And that's the candy the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning parents about today. 

For people 40 and older, eating 2 ounces of black licorice a day for at least two weeks could trigger an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) and other troubles, so the agency says don't OD on it.

The FDA advises people over 40 to enjoy black licorice in moderation but not each too much.  That's because it contains a compound called glycyrrhizin, derived from licorice root. Glycyrrhizin can cause potassium levels in the body to fall, which can lead to abnormal heart rhythms as well as high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy and congestive heart failure.

After one stops eating black licorice, potassium levels typically return to normal and there are no permanent health problems, according to the agency.

The FDA offered the following advice for people who enjoy black licorice.

No matter your age, don't eat large amounts at one time. If you've been eating a lot of black licorice and have an irregular heart rhythm or muscle weakness, stop eating it immediately and contact your healthcare provider.

Black licorice can interact with some medications, herbs and dietary supplements. Talk to your healthcare professional about possible interactions.

The FDA also noted that licorice has a long history of use as a folk or traditional remedy for conditions such as heartburn, stomach ulcers, bronchitis, sore throat, cough, and some infections caused by viruses like hepatitis. However, it says there's no proof that licorice is effective in treating any medical condition.

Licorice also is sometimes used as a flavoring in food, but many "licorice" or "licorice flavor" products made in the United States do not contain any licorice. Instead, they contain anise oil, which has the same smell and taste.

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