FDA Releases Licorice Candy Warning for Halloween

WASHINGTON — The United States Food and Drug Administration has released a warning related to pregnant mothers eating licorice candy on Halloween.

The FDA explained in a recent press release that people over the age of 40 years old that eat licorice could experience heart issues related to a substance called glycyrrhizin, which is present in licorice roots, where the sweet flavor in licorice is derived. Licorice actually comes from a shrub plant and the sweet part is extracted from the plant’s root. It is grown in Turkey, Greece and parts of Asia as a commercial crop. The plant has been used in both Eastern and Western folk medicine as home remedies for sore throat, cough, stomachache, ulcers and other problems, but the FDA said there has  been little scientific evidence to support the claims that the licorice root actually has any real health benefits.

The FDA noted in their release that black licorice candy can be a problem for those over 40 who eat it because it can drop the levels of potassium in the body and even cause congestive heart failure. The FDA said that at least one licorice aficionado had reported health problems to the agency after eating the candy previously. Scientific research has also been conducted to make these links to heart issues, the FDA warned.

These dangerously low potassium levels actually lead to abnormal rhythms in the heartbeat, higher blood pressure, weakness in your muscles, inflammation/swelling and the worst of all, heart failure. Risks for this to happen are much greater if you over the age of 40 years old, according to the FDA, and you should not eat more than a couple ounces of the candy per day within a two-week timeframe to avoid the risks, according to a Forbes report citing a UK national health service claim. However, younger folks could be at risk as well, according to the research in the report.

Of course, this will not be a problem for many people, since it seems to be a polarizing flavor. As the Forbes article points out, many people simply hate the taste of the licorice flavor, while others really love it.

It has been reported that Glycyrrhiza glabra tablets and liquid extracts have been used to relieve eczema, heartburn and other ailments but again, scientific evidence for such use and benefit is scant at best. It can, in fact, interfere with the proper use of other medicine, including decreasing the effectiveness of warfarin (Coumadin) or estrogen pills. Check with your doctor before eating black licorice if you are on any medications.

The FDA also released an informative video to warn about the potential effects of the candy and its active ingredient, glycyrrhizin.

According to at least one other report, Japanese doctors have used glycyrrhizin to treat some chronic hepatitis C patients. Licorice is also used in food flavorings. A similar licorice flavoring called anise oil is often used as a substitute because it has the same flavor and smell. It is called deglycyrrhizainated licorice.

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