Soy sauce is a common condiment in many cuisines around the world. It is often used to add flavour to dishes and enhance their taste. However, few people are aware that soy sauce can be deadly if consumed in large quantities. So, how soy sauce can kill and have there been real cases?
Firstly, it is important to understand the science behind the lethal effects of soy sauce. Soy sauce contains high levels of sodium, with some brands containing up to 1,000 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. Ingesting too much sodium can lead to hypernatremia, a condition in which there is too much salt in the body. This can cause the cells in the body to shrink, leading to dehydration and a host of health problems.
In mild cases, hypernatremia can cause symptoms such as thirst, dry mouth, and restlessness. However, in more severe cases, it can cause seizures, coma, and even death. This occurs because the high sodium levels in the blood can cause the brain to swell, leading to brain damage or death.
Real life cases of soy sauce danger
One real-life example occurred in 2011 when a 19-year old student from Virginia (USA) consumed a large amount of soy sauce as part of a college fraternity dare. He reportedly drank a quart of soy sauce in under two hours, which led to him suffering seizures and falling into a coma nearly four hours after the event.
The medical team immediately began flushing the salt out of his system by administering a solution of water and the sugar dextrose through a nasal tube. When they placed the tube, streaks of brown material came out. Doctors determined that he had ingested 160 to 170 grams of sodium from the soy sauce, a potentially lethal dose for his weight and build.
Within a half hour, they pumped 6 liters of sugar water into the man’s body. While his sodium levels returned to normal after about five hours, he remained in a coma for three days. Fortunately, he eventually made a full recovery.
While he survived, there was a documented report of suicide by soy sauce in Japan. A 2011 report in the Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine described the case of a 55-year-old woman diagnosed with an 11-year history of depression. According to doctors, she died after drinking “a large quantity of shoyu (Japanese soy sauce)” – approximately 700ml of it.
How to avoid the danger?
These cases highlight the dangers of consuming large quantities of soy sauce. While the occasional use of soy sauce in cooking or as a condiment is generally safe, excessive consumption can be deadly. This is particularly true for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease.
It’s important to note that soy sauce isn’t the only condiment that can be dangerous when consumed in excess. Other high-sodium condiments like Worcestershire sauce and fish sauce can also lead to salt poisoning if consumed in large quantities.
To avoid the dangers of salt poisoning from soy sauce, it’s important to consume it in moderation. Soy sauce contains high levels of sodium, with some brands containing up to 1,000 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon. The American Heart Association recommends that adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is about a teaspoon of salt (a tablespoon of salt weighs about 15 grams, in case you’re wondering). A salt dose ranging from 0.75 grams to 3 grams per kilogram of body weight can kill someone.
In conclusion, soy sauce can be a delicious and flavourful addition to many dishes, but it can also be deadly if consumed in large quantities. When using soy sauce in cooking, consider using low-sodium options or reducing the amount used. As with any food or condiment, moderation is key, and it is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with consuming excessive amounts of soy sauce.