Opinion: A cautionary candy tale

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Lots of big news in the world of candy. First, as you may have heard, due to COVID-19, there will be no Peeps this Halloween. In fact, there may be no Halloween this Halloween.

Scientists have recently raised concern about licorice. Apparently, a Massachusetts construction worker died of an overdose. He ate three bags of black licorice a day for two weeks, which the experts say results in a toxic level of glycyrrhizic acid. Glycyrrhizic also is the sound your stomach makes when you eat three bags of licorice a day for two weeks. The guy collapsed in a fast-food restaurant, where he reportedly ate three Whoppers a day for two weeks. No mention of that in the autopsy report.

So, too much black licorice is bad for you, but apparently small amounts of the treat are beneficial, slowing the effects of aging on the brain and keeping mental skills sharp, controlling respiratory problems and soothing a sore throat. It also combats hepatitis and calms skin irritations, just to name a few reasons to eat the occasional Twizzler.

By the way, red licorice is not licorice; it’s just candy. If you are color blind, take special note, whether you binge on black or red. And don’t play checkers or roulette.

Currently, you can buy licorice over the counter — the candy counter, that is. No prescription needed. But that will all change if Eli Lilly can figure out a way to get those rubbery sticks into a tiny plastic bottle. If that happens and black licorice is officially declared a drug, the cost will soar and might even exceed what you pay for licorice in the movie theater. Then the government will require warnings on the bottle: Side effects include blackened teeth, no teeth, inflamed gums, jaw ache, weight gain, and funny facial expressions when chewing. Do not eat licorice if you plan to operate heavy machinery, drive a car or ride a tricycle. In rare cases, licorice may cause impotence, but findings are inconclusive because most of the people eating black licorice are under 7 years old.

My wife loves sweets, but she always feels bad about this guilty pleasure. So, when I saw her step into the kitchen pantry to nibble on something, I called to her, “What are you eating in there, Mary Ellen?”

“Ummlicrsssh.”

“I knew it. Licorice. I hope you already heard the news, Mary Ellen. A little black licorice is good for you, but too much is bad for you. Or are you are eating red licorice?”

“Not sure, Dick. The light automatically goes off when I close the door.”

Just for fun, I looked up “Effects of different candies on your health.” A lot of investigations are in the works. I would happily volunteer as a test eater, but most of this research is done on animals, and they’re generally opposed to being experiment subjects. At least a diet of Skittles, Bit O’ Honeys and gummy bears is a step up from being forced to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day.

A final note to kids: If you go trick-or-treating, avoid eating too much black licorice if it ends up in your sack. And please, wear a mask!


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