Thursday, February 2, 2012

Don Seldin, Licorice, and the New York Times. Updated x2

The association of licorice, hypokalemia and hypertension is a medical pearl that delights me even though I have never seen a convincing case. However, Ted Lynch had a case in 1987 and presented it to Don Seldin, one of the Gods of nephrology (pdf). The interaction was documented in the New York Times for some reason. It is a well written story.

For those of you fuzzy on the connection between licorice, hypokalemia and hypertension this post by Neil Kurtzman (one of Seldin's protégées) does a beautiful job explaining it.

And yes, I am working on a metabolic alkalosis lecture.

Update: Here is the FDA warning regarding licorice that was published October 2011 and here is the skinny on American licorice from the good people at Hershey:

Traditionally, "licorice candy" referred to a chewy candy with a distinctive flavor which came from licorice root extract. Today, consumers recognize licorice more as a general description of candy that may be available in a variety of flavors. 
Not all of today's licorice-type candies are flavored with licorice root extract. Some licorice-flavored candies may be flavored with anise oil instead of licorice extract. Other fruit-flavored candies may be commonly referred to as licorice candy, but do not contain any licorice extract. For example, while people may consider all TWIZZLERS Candy to be licorice candy, the strawberry, chocolate, and cherry-flavored TWIZZLERS Candy do not contain licorice extract. TWIZZLERS Black Licorice Candy is flavored with both licorice extract and anise oil. 
Those licorice candies which contain licorice root extract will typically declare either "licorice extract" or "licorice root extract" as an ingredient on the package.
Hat tip to pkovachmd

Update 2: Here is the link from Melanie regarding the unsuccessful suit involving over-indulgance in licorice and hypokalemia.
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