Bruce Lee may have died from drinking too much water, scientists find

Bruce Lee in The Game Of Death Credit: Instagram/@brucelee

Martial artist Bruce Lee may have died from drinking too much water, researchers have found.

Lee, who was born in San Francisco but raised in Hong Kong, died aged 32 in 1973. His last film, 'Enter the Dragon', was released six days after his death and became his most popular movie.

At the time, Lee’s death was ruled to be from a cerebral edema (i.e. swelling of the brain). Coroners thought the edema was caused by a painkiller Lee took before his death.

However, Spanish researchers have now suggested that Lee's edema was the result of hyponatraemia.

"In other words, we propose that the kidney’s inability to excrete excess water killed Bruce Lee," the researchers wrote in the Clinical Kidney Journal.

The scientists pointed to numerous factors, including Lee’s diet at the time - which included a lot of juices and protein drink - and the use of marijuana, which increases thirst. "We suggest that the fact that water intake was repeatedly noticed when it is such a commonplace activity that might have been forgotten given the exceptional circumstances means that it was indeed noticeably higher than the intake of other persons present on the day that Lee died," the scientists said.

They added: "The fact that we are 60% water does not protect us from the potentially lethal consequences of drinking water at a faster rate than our kidneys can excrete excess water.


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"Ironically, Lee made famous the quote 'Be water my friend', but excess water appears to have ultimately killed him."

Despite his untimely death, Lee helped to create and popularise a genre that still endures and influences today with roles in films including 'Fist of Fury', 'Way of the Dragon', and 'Enter the Dragon'.

Recently, Quentin Tarantino's portrayal of Lee became the subject of controversy.

Lee's daughter Shannon Lee said her father's 'cameo' in last year’s 'Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood' movie was "irresponsible".

In the 2019 film, a boastful Bruce challenges Brad Pitt’s stuntman to a fight.

"He was not a bully and he was not arrogant,” she Ms Lee said.

“Quite frankly, my father was treated in that film like he was by white Hollywood when he was alive."