Saturday, November 5, 2011

Black Licorice

Lowers testosterone?

I have no idea when or how I got hooked on black licorice, although my mother - and her brother my uncle - were always big fans so I'll attribute my addiction to them.  However I may have to cut back on what I previously considered a harmless organic treat, based on some facts heretofore unknown, at least to me.  "Much of the sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound between 30 to 50 times as sweet as sucrose, and which also has pharmaceutical effects.  Black liquorice contains approximately 100 calories per ounce.  The good:  The compound glycyrrhizic acid is now routinely used throughout Japan for the treatment and control of chronic viral hepatitis.  Hepatoprotective mechanisms have been demonstrated in mice.  Recent studies indicate that glycyrrhizic acid disrupts latent Kaposi sarcoma, exhibiting a strong anti-viral effect.  Liquorice affects the body's endocrine system.  It might lower the amount of serum testosterone slightly, but whether it affects the amount of free testosterone is unclear.  Consuming liquorice may prevent the development of hyperkalemia in persons on hemodialysis.  Large doses of glycyrrhizinic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid in liquorice extract can lead to hypokalemia and serious increases in blood pressure.  To decrease the chances of these serious side effects, deglycyrrhizinated liquorice preparations are available.  The disabling of similar enzymes in the gut by glycyrrhizinic acid and glycyrrhetinic acid also causes increased mucus and decreased acid secretion.  It is used as an aid for healing stomach and duodenal ulcers, and in moderate amounts may soothe an upset stomach.  Liquorice can be used to treat ileitis, leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn's disease as it is antispasmodic in the bowels.   It inhibits an enzyme that is highly expressed in liver and fat tissues, where it plays a role in metabolism, and in the brain, where the same enzyme is involved in stress response that has been associated with age-related mental decline.  The bad:  Excessive consumption of liquorice or liquorice candy is known to be toxic to the liver and cardiovascular system, and may produce hypertension and edema.  In occasional cases blood pressure has increased with excessive consumption of liquorice tea, but such occasions are rare and reversible when the herb is withdrawn.  Most cases of hypertension from liquorice were caused by eating too much concentrated liquorice candy.  Doses as low as 50 grams (2 oz) of liquorice daily for two weeks can cause a significant rise in blood pressure.  A European Commission 2008 report suggested that “people should not consume any more than 100mg of glycyrrhizic acid a day, for it can raise blood pressure or cause muscle weakness, chronic fatigue, headaches or swelling, and lower testosterone levels in men.”  A 56-year-old Yorkshire woman was hospitalized after liquorice overdose (200 grams or 7 ounces a day), which caused muscle failure.  The hospital restored her potassium levels, by intravenous drip and tablets, allowing her to recover after 4 days.  Comparative studies of pregnant women suggest that liquorice may also adversely affect both IQ and behaviour traits of offspring." (Wikipedia)

The Good News: I was unaware of the above for sixty years!