Researchers Say Too Much Water Killed Bruce Lee

New study blames his 'kidney's inability to excrete excess water'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2022 1:02 PM CST
Updated Nov 26, 2022 9:13 AM CST
What Killed Bruce Lee? Maybe Too Much Water
Bruce Lee, who died in 1973.   (AP Photo/Columbia Picture, File)

Bruce Lee's unexpected death nearly 50 years ago at the age of 32 has been the subject of all kinds of speculation over the years. Now a new study offers another theory: The actor died from drinking too much water, reports Variety. More specifically, the researchers propose in Clinical Kidney Journal that his "kidney’s inability to excrete excess water" doomed him. In 1973, Hong Kong officials determined that Lee's death was caused by cerebral oedema, or brain swelling. The new study suggests the swelling was brought on by a condition known as hyponatraemia, "in which the body holds on to too much water," per the Los Angeles Times.

"We hypothesize that Bruce Lee died from a specific form of kidney dysfunction: the inability to excrete enough water to maintain water homeostasis," the researchers write. The issue may result in "death within hours if excess water intake is not matched by water excretion in urine." The study isn't saying that Lee consumed an excess amount of water the night he died (death from hyponatraemia would generally require about 2 gallons of water to be consumed in a few hours). Rather, the researchers say he was more susceptible to it than normal due to his lifestyle.

Among the factors: He reportedly often subsisted on a juice diet, drank alcohol and took prescription drugs (which can reduce kidney function), and smoked marijuana (which may have made him more thirsty). Those factors and more (including "a past history of acute kidney injury and exercise") made him more vulnerable to a severe case of hyponatraemia, the study asserts. The researchers also call attention to an irony of their findings: Lee was famous for the phrase, "Be water my friend," and an excess of water may have been what killed him. (Lee's daughter is not happy with Quentin Tarantino's cinematic dig at her father.)

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