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

A new study claims to shed light on the death of celebrated film star and martial artist Bruce Lee.

The Enter The Dragon actor died in July 1973 at the age of just 32 after suffering a cerebral oedema (swelling of the brain).

The swelling was thought to be a reaction to the tranquiliser meprobamate, which made up part of a painkiller Lee was given called Equagesic.

However, a team of researchers has now suggested that the oedema was caused by hyponatraemia. “In other words, we propose that the kidney’s inability to excrete excess water killed Bruce Lee,” the scientists wrote in the paper published in the Clinical Kidney Journal.

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.”

Bruce Lee (Glasshouse Images/Shutterstock)
Bruce Lee (Glasshouse Images/Shutterstock)

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

Lee was reimagined in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

One scene shows Brad Pitt’s character throwing the martial arts legend (played by Mike Moh) into a car after Lee challenges Cliff (Pitt) to a fight.

Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee, condemned Tarantino for his depiction of her father, calling him “irresponsible” for showing Lee as “an arrogant a**hole who was full of hot air”.

In an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast last year, Tarantino addressed the controversy, saying: “Where I’m coming from is I can understand his daughter having a problem with it. It’s her f***ing father. Everyone else: go suck a d***.”