Kung fu legend Bruce Lee may have died from drinking too much water, say scientists

21 November 2022, 12:59

Bruce Lee may have died from drinking too much water
Bruce Lee may have died from drinking too much water. Picture: Alamy

By Stephen Rigley

Martial arts legend Bruce Lee might have died from drinking too much water, doctors have claimed nearly 50 years after he passed away.

The Enter the Dragon star died aged 32 in the summer of 1973 while in Hong Kong and an autopsy at the time showed he had died from brain swelling, which doctors blamed on him taking a painkiller.

His untimely passing sparked a multitude of rumours. There have been theories that he was assassinated by Chinese gangsters, poisoned by a jealous lover, the victim of a curse or even that he died from heatstroke.

Now, researchers have reviewed the evidence to rule that Bruce actually likely died of hyponatraemia.

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

Bruce Lee who died aged 32 in 1973
Bruce Lee who died aged 32 in 1973. Picture: Alamy

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Several factors suggest that Lee may have been consuming unusually high quantities of liquid at the time due to his diet, which consisted of a lot of juices and protein drinks, and the use of marijuana, which causes increased thirst.

“In summary, Lee had multiple risk factors predisposing to hyponatraemia resulting from interference with water homeostasis mechanisms that regulate both water intake and water excretion,” the researchers wrote.

“We hypothesize that Bruce Lee died from a specific form of kidney dysfunction: the inability to excrete enough water to maintain water homeostasis.”

They concluded: “Ironically, Lee made famous the quote ‘Be water my friend’, but excess water appears to have ultimately killed him.”

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