April 17 2019 – Liquorice

I’ve been asking people what topics they’d like me to write on.  One of the more interesting responses thus far is Liquorice.  Basically, is liquorice good or bad?  I’m a little worried that I might be stepping into a little bit of a marital argument here, but what the heck.  Let’s talk about Liquorice.

First off, I’m going to focus only on black liquorice.  I think we can all agree that red liquorice is not actually liquorice.  Its just a confectioners candy made from sugar, molasses, starch, gum arabic, artificial colours and flavours, and often ammonium chloride.  Nothing good about any of that.

But black liquorice might be a little different.  There is definitely evidence that liquorice root can be very beneficial.  There’s significant benefit from liquorice root for several digestive issues such as ulcers, heart burn, colic, and GI inflammation.  There’s also evidence of benefits to the respiratory system and can be a mild anti-inflammatory for the whole body.  As well, a lot of black liquorice candies have added aniseed oil and/or fennel seed oil in them.  These plants have a very similar flavour to liquorice root, so they’re used as natural flavour enhancers in liquorice treats.  Both plants also come with their own list of possible health benefits, so all of this is very good.

On the flip side, the typical ingredient list of black liquorice candy includes wheat flour, sugar (usually a couple of types), molasses, blue dye, and the same binders as used in the red candies, such as various starches and gums.  None of these have significant benefit, and it could be argued they are actually harmful, leaving us with a bit of a trade off (good liquorice, aniseed, and fennel mixed with bad everything else).  Especially the dyes that are commonly found, which are gaining more and more popularity for their negative health consequences, including ADHD, allergies and asthma.

But, to add more insult to the list of negatives, we’ve got to consider Glycyrrhizin.  This is the compound in Liquorice root that provides its subtle sweetness.  This compound has an immediate, acute impact on our bodies’ potassium levels.  A relatively instant drop in potassium levels can have impact on both blood pressure and heart rhythm.  Its been found that as little as 2oz daily of liquorice containing glycyrrhizin for as little as 2 weeks, therefore, can have lasting effects on blood pressure and can cause serious arrhythmias.  In extreme cases, these sudden changes to potassium levels have caused heart failure.

So, is red liquorice good for you?  Definitely not!
Is Black liquorice candy good for you?  Not really, but kinda sorta.
Is Liquorice Root good for you?  Definitely yes, but not too much (unless you’re a fan of sudden death by heart failure)!

The long and the short of it… enjoy a little black liquorice candy on occasion.  As Oscar Wilde said, ‘Everything in moderation, including moderation’.

But the real question that remains unanswered for me is simply this; Why would anyone ever want to eat black liquorice??  The stuff is disgusting!!!

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