Healthy 10-Year-Old Develops Seizure Disorder And The World’s Worst Candy Is To Blame

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black licoriceIf you’d rather chew on old shoe leather than put a piece of black licorice anywhere near your mouth, your feelings now have a bizarre new source of validation. An otherwise healthy 10-year-old child in Italy suddenly developed a seizure disorder, which stumped his doctors until they realized the culprit to blame: none other than Satan’s Gummi Rope itself.

According to Raw Story, the boy was admitted to medical care for something called posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome, which is doctor-talk for “holy crap, your brain is swelling up, but hopefully it will get better?” He was in the hospital for a full week while doctors tried to make sense of his sky-high blood pressure and elevated levels of a stress hormone called cortisol–until someone finally thought to ask him why his teeth were so brown. (Maybe up to that point they thought he’d just started his espresso habit young?)

As it turned out, the boy had been eating not one, not two, but twenty licorice toffees on a daily basis for about four months. And a funny thing about black licorice that not even Science Mom knew is that it contains a chemical called glycyrrhizic acid (which is an ugly jumble of letters for which I apologize on behalf of all of Science). Glycyrrhizic acid tastes sweet, 30 or 40 times sweeter than table sugar–allegedly, if you can taste anything other than ‘demon rectum’ when you eat black licorice–but it also prevents that stress hormone, cortisol, from breaking down in your body. Lots of stress hormone building up equals lots of swelling in your brain, which equals a trip to the hospital plus a horde of very startled doctors.

Happily, the cure for licorice-induced seizures is simply to quit the stuff cold turkey, which is probably good advice anyway for people who have taste buds. (This is just black licorice, too, so your Twizzlers are still safe.) Some scientists who have done studies on the effects of licorice on health even want manufacturers to have to put warning labels on packages of licorice candy, probably something along the lines of, “If you waste your ‘junk food’ calories for today on this, first of all you should be ashamed, and second of all, it might make your brain swell up like an angry blowfish.”

So if you’re the relative in the family who usually amasses all the unwanted black licorice jellybeans (also known as “rabbit turds from hell”) from the little kids’ Easter baskets, be careful this year to avoid something much worse than a sugar crash this year. Is that chewy black road tar really worth the blood pressure spike or potential seizure? No. No, it is not.

(Image: Patrik Hanning / Getty)