Martial arts legend Bruce Lee died unexpectedly almost 50 years ago. Seemingly in peak health, the Kung Fu champion of Hong Kong and Kung Fu and Karate champion of America died suddenly at age 32.
According to the Daily Mail, Lee’s passing “sparked rumors he may have been assassinated by Chinese gangsters, poisoned by a jealous lover, or the victim of a curse.”
Later, doctors suggested that Lee died from heatstroke.
A recent review of Lee’s life and death has led researchers to believe that Lee likely died of hyponatremia, a rare condition aggravated by drinking too much water. Hyponatremia compromises the kidney’s ability to properly excrete excess water and toxins.
A report in the Clinical Kidney Journal noted: “Excess water appears to have ultimately killed him.”
The report continued:
“We now propose, based on an analysis of publicly available information, that the cause of death was cerebral oedema due to hyponatraemia. In other words, we propose that the kidney’s inability to excrete excess water killed Bruce Lee.”
Contributing factors to Lee’s death likely include Lee’s admitted use of cannabis, Lee’s favoring a liquid diet and his constant water intake, claimed Matthew Polly, author of “Bruce Lee, A Life.” Polly noted that Lee “used marijuana heavily and drank copious amounts of water the day he died,” according to a report in the Daily Mail.
Researchers noted that Lee’s “high marijuana use, which increases thirst,” combined with his diet, his practice of drinking a significant amount of water every day and his rigorous exercise routine support their findings.
According to the report, researchers considered, then dismissed, the theory that Lee died from hypersensitivity to Equagesic, writing, “Hypersensitivity to the components of Equagesic (aspirin and meprobamate) was identified as the official cause of death [in 1973].
However, Lee had taken this drug before and on the day of his death,” the report continued. “He took it AFTER he felt unwell, already having symptoms that may be explained by cerebral oedema (i.e. headache), and cerebral oedema would not be expected to be the only necropsy finding if indeed hypersensitivity to Equagesic was the cause of death.”
The report also dismisses Polly’s earlier claim that Lee died of heatstroke. Researchers noted that “Lee had his axillary sweat glands removed a month before his death, but it was ‘unlikely’ axillary sweat gland removal alone could facilitate heatstroke.”
The report continued: “Overall, the time-course, ability to sweat and lack of extreme weather and of reports by witnesses of excessive heat or skin temperature or dry skin despite a warm environment argue against heatstroke.”
“On the evening that Lee died,” continued the report, “Polly repeatedly refers to water intake during the day, including just before Lee became noticeably ill. The excess fluid intake appears to have become a habit for Lee.”
The report concludes: “Ironically, Lee made famous the quote ‘Be water, my friend,’ but excess water appears to have ultimately killed him.”