Bruce Lee may have died from drinking too much water, says new study

It’s been nearly 50 years since Bruce Lee died suddenly on July 20, 1973 in Hong Kong – and now new research says the martial arts icon died from drinking too much water.

The study, conducted by a group of kidney specialists in Spain, was published in the December 2022 edition of the Clinical Kidney Journal. They claimed the movie star’s death was caused by his “kidneys’ inability to excrete excess water.”

Officials initially ruled the cause of death to be brain edema or brain swelling. However, the authors said the 32-year-old had “multiple risk factors for hyponatremia,” meaning an unusually low blood sodium concentration. They cited Lee’s “chronic fluid intake,” as well as marijuana use, which increases thirst.

They also pointed out potential factors that may have interfered with the late star’s kidney function, including alcohol intake and a history of injury to the organ.

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Actor and martial artist Bruce Lee died on July 20, 1973, at the age of 32.
(Archive Photo/Getty Images)

The researchers noted that Lee’s use of prescription drugs may also have played a role in the functions of his kidneys. Lee reportedly used meprobamate and aspirin, medications for anxiety and pain.

“We hypothesize that Bruce Lee died of a specific form of renal dysfunction: the inability to excrete enough water to maintain water homeostasis,” the paper reads. “This can lead to hyponatremia, brain edema and death within hours if excess water intake is not accompanied by water excretion in the urine.”

“Since hyponatremia is frequent, as it is found in up to 40% of hospitalized people and can cause death from excessive water ingestion even in young and healthy people, a wider dissemination of the concept that excessive water intake is needed it can kill,” he concluded.

Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. His son, actor Brandon Lee, died in 1993 at the age of 28.

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Bruce Lee acting movie still in a scene from the movie

Bruce Lee acting film still in a scene from the film ‘Enter The Dragon’ which premiered after his death in 1973.
(Getty Images)

Over the years, Lee’s death has sparked numerous conspiracy theories. Some fans believed he may have been murdered by gangsters, while others insisted he was the target of a curse. His final days were revisited in a 2018 book called “Bruce Lee: A Life,” which speculated that he died of heat stroke.

“The key to understanding Bruce Lee’s death is that he collapsed 10 weeks earlier and almost died of the same thing,” author Matthew Polly told Fox News Digital at the time.

“On May 10, 1973, he walked into a small dub studio on one of the hottest days of the month,” Polly explained. “They turned off the air conditioner to avoid spoiling the soundtrack. He immediately overheated and felt dizzy. He left the room and collapsed on the floor again. He got back up and when he entered the heated room, he collapsed again and he started convulsing violently. They took him to the hospital and the doctors suspected that his brain was swelling… And so, the first collapse looked exactly like a case of heatstroke.”

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Bruce Lee (1940-1973), Chinese American actor and martial artist, and Van Williams, US actor, both in costume, in a publicity portrait released for the US television series

Bruce Lee (1940-1973), Chinese American actor and martial artist, and Van Williams, US actor, both in costume, in a published publicity portrait for the US television series ‘The Green Hornet’, USA, circa 1967. The action adventure series starring Lee as “Kato” and Williams as “The Green Hornet”.
(Silver Screen/Getty Images Collection)

Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, told the Los Angeles Times in 1998 that Lee’s death was caused by brain swelling due to hypersensitivity caused by an ingredient found in Equagesic. However, Polly insisted that Lee’s final moments during a blistering Hong Kong heatwave more closely mimicked the symptoms she had experienced before her.

“There were dozens and dozens of rumors at the time: that he was poisoned, that ninjas took him, that someone gave him a death touch,” Polly said. “There is no evidence of a cover-up. My conclusion is heatstroke … he IS a very common killer among young, athletic men.”

Polly said that a couple of months before the first incident, Lee had her armpit sweat glands surgically removed.

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In 2018, author Matthew Polly claimed that Bruce Lee died of heat stroke.

In 2018, author Matthew Polly claimed that Bruce Lee died of heat stroke.
(Getty Images)

“He didn’t think they looked good on screen,” Polly said. “It was his job to look good on screen. [But] that would have made it more difficult for him to dissipate the heat.”

The current study did not find that temperatures were unusually high on the day of Lee’s death. He claimed that while Lee hadn’t consumed an enormous amount of water, his kidneys weren’t able to handle normal amounts of fluid at that point.

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