How soy sauce overdose could kill

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Medical journal reports 19 year old soy sauce overdose

Reports of a 19-year old that overdosed on soy sauce brings focus to the importance of understanding how easily it is to upset balance in the body that can lead to life-threatening problems. How could drinking too much soy sauce kill?

The young man drank an entire bottle of soy sauce after he received a ‘dare’ from his friends. The result was the young man had seizures and lay in a coma for 3-days.

Add soy sauce to a dangerous list of ‘food dares’, such as the ‘cinnamon challenge’ that can lead to respiratory problems.

Soy sauce is loaded with salt. Ingesting too much, and too quickly, makes sodium levels in the bloodstream soar. The resulting condition is hypernatremia that affects the brain.

Too much sodium in the bloodstream upsets the ratio of water to salt. Sodium pulls water from the brain cells, causing them to shrink. The result could lead to long-last neurological damage.

The 19-year old drank more than a quart of soy sauce, according to the finding reported in the Journal of Emergency Medicine.

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According to the study authors, “Intentional massive sodium chloride ingestions are rare occurrences and are often fatal.” In this instance, the unidentified 19-year old survived.

The young man was taken to the emergency room in a coma and having seizures 2-hours after drinking the massive amount of soy sauce Treatment was anti-seizure medications and 6 Liters of fluid given over 30-minutes. Rapid fluid replacement carries complications because of brain swelling, making treatment for hypernatremia complicated.

In this instance the treatment worked. The authors suggest physicians can consider rapid fluid replacement for severe hypernatremia with ‘free water’.

Recommendations for treating a salt overdose – in this case from soy sauce – have been to replace fluids slowly to avoid brain swelling. Sometimes dialysis is needed to restore electrolyte balance in the body.

The case of the young man who drank soy sauce on a dare is unusual because he survived and also because “… rapid free-water infusions…to our knowledge, has not been previously reported,” the authors write.

They also note “…the young man’s sodium level “… is the highest documented level in an adult patient to survive an acute sodium ingestion without neurologic deficits.”

Massive soy sauce ingestions can be fatal, but in this case the 19 year old male survived. The ingredient that causes problems is sodium or salt. The report is unique and highlights a previously unknown treatment for hypernatremia. The young man’s sodium level was also the highest ever reported that did not lead to death.