A new cause of death has been theorized for legendary martial artist Bruce Lee. The initial ruling was brain swelling, or more formally, cerebral edema, possibly caused by a painkiller. But what if the medication had nothing to do with his death, and the headache was a symptom of the true cause of Bruce Lee's death?
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A new study suggests just that. In particular, it claims that he met his fate by drinking too much water. The study was published in Clinical Kidney Journal and notes that Lee's brain weighed about a half-pound more than the average human brain, which could have been the result of an excess of fluid. According to the researchers, excess water intake is a risk factor for hyponatremia, or acute water intoxication, which Mayo Clinic says occurs when, quote, "the concentration of sodium in your blood is abnormally low."
The study reads, The regulation of the human body's homeostasis depends on healthy water intake and subsequent excretion by the kidneys. If Lee was consuming more water than his kidneys could excrete, it could cause serious issues. The study reads, The researchers also noted that hyponatremia can be exacerbated by various factors, including prescription drug intake and organ injuries.
The study concludes by pointing out the irony of one of Lee's most famous quotes considering that he died of an excess of water. "Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."
If the study proves to be accurate, Lee wouldn't be the only one to suffer this fate. In 2007, the radio station KDND held a water drinking contest. The end result was the death of a 29-year-old mother, Jennifer Strange, who drank over 1.5 gallons of water. The station was sued for wrongful death, and a jury ultimately found them responsible, thanks in part to testimony from George Alan Kaysen, a kidney expert who outlined his view on the cause of Strange's death. Kaysen noted that excessive water consumption disrupts the body's homeostasis, particularly by causing dangerously low levels of salt.
He said, It's not uncommon for a celebrity death to lead to theories about what really brought them down, and Bruce Lee's was no different - even before the new water intoxication theory.
According to the South China Morning Post, one theory, which was fueled by Raymond Chow, Lee's business partner and producer, claims that the martial artist was poisoned by a lover, Taiwanese actress Betty Ting Pei, who was the one who gave Lee that painkiller that was later believed to have caused his death.
Speaking of the ordeal, she said, Another theory suggests that Lee's death was the result of mingling with Hong Kong triads - organized crime groups that have deep ties to China. Specifically, the theory claimed that Lee was indebted to these gangs for the protection they provided on his movie sets. Yet another claim under this same theory proposed that the Cantonese star was taken out by these mob groups because his success was viewed as a threat to Mandarin-language films.
Of course, these theories are all unsubstantiated, and time will tell whether the new findings will cement water intoxication as the cause of Bruce Lee's death in the annals of history.