Black licorice doesn’t usually rank too high on many “best Halloween candy” lists, but people who love it tend to REALLY love it. If you’re part of that small-but-mighty population, you may want to listen to the FDA’s recent warning about the contentious candy.
Per the FDA, “As it turns out, you really can overdose on candy—or, more precisely, black licorice.” That being said, it’s important to enjoy the candy in moderation.
Just in time for Halloween, the FDA reminded consumers that eating large amounts of black licorice regularly can cause heart problems. People have experienced a range of symptoms including abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, swelling, lethargy, and congestive heart failure after eating too much black licorice.
FDA spokesperson Peter Cassell stresses that this warning is important specifically for people over the age of 40. If you are in this age demographic, the FDA advises not eating more than two ounces a day, or about four small pieces. Eating two ounces per day for at least two weeks could actually put you in the hospital, the FDA cautions.
The problem lies in glycyrrhizin, a sweetening compound that comes from licorice root and is often found in black licorice. Glycyrrhizin can make your body’s potassium levels fall, resulting in the scary symptoms mentioned above.
When looking at candy labels, keep an eye out for “licorice flavor, extract, oil, or natural flavoring,” as these will contain the hazardous compound, Cassell says. If you don’t see one of those ingredients, the licorice flavor likely comes from artificial flavoring, meaning it does not include the compound.
The FDA put out a festive video explaining the issue with licorice and “witching” you a Happy and safe Halloween. In the video, the agency also warns that black licorice can interact poorly with certain medications, herbs, or dietary supplements, so if you’re a big fan of the candy and are taking any sort of medication, you may want to check with your doctor about any possible risks.
While binging on candy is a Halloween tradition, it seems like a good idea to go easy on the black licorice from now on. While the concern is largely targeted at adults over 40, “No matter what your age, don’t eat large amounts of black licorice at one time,” Cassell says.
If anything, use it as an excuse to eat more of your other favorite candies, including red licorice — candies like red Twizzlers and Red Vines aren’t typically made with actual licorice. Artificial ingredients, you win this round.
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