How Soy Sauce Sent Someone To The Hospital

Soy sauce is a pantry staple in most households. Whether you are an avid sushi eater or like to make marinades that include this brown liquid, chances are you number yourself among the 2.21 million Americans who used four or more bottles of this savory ingredient in 2020 (via Statista). But chances are probably pretty equal that you are not guzzling down bottles of this salty condiment that, per Healthline, claims China as its place of birth and that people have been cooking with for over 1,000 years. That is, unless you are a 19-year-old college student who may have been drinking and decided to accept a dare to down a quart of this fermented soy and wheat liquid, thereby making headlines in the process for almost dying.

According to Live Science, the young man in question ended up in a coma, but luckily survived and had no "lasting neurological side effects." While chugging down a quart of soy sauce may seem extreme, so does ending up in the hospital. What caused this medical emergency? The simple answer is too much salt. We're talking way too much, but what's truly scary about this incident is it isn't the first time someone has tried it, and not everyone has been as lucky as the 19-year-old.

Too much salt can cause the brain to bleed

Live Science shares that the young man who drank the soy sauce was diagnosed with hypernatremia, which is the medical term for too much salt in the blood. The concern with hypernatremia is that it causes the brain to lose water, which can cause it to shrink and bleed. As we said, scary stuff. NPR shares it isn't even the first time soy sauce has caused this condition. It is known as "suicide by soy sauce," and in 2011 a woman who was clinically depressed downed a large amount of the condiment and died.

Fortunately for the college student, doctors at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville were able to get the situation under control by giving the soy sauce overdoser six liters of IV fluid that contained dextrose, a sugar that helped to dilute the sodium. Live Science said this all took about five hours, but the patient was still in a coma for three days. How much sodium had the young man consumed? Approximately 170 grams, per NPR. The FDA recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2.3 grams a day, which is about one teaspoon of table salt. If the word "Yikes!" slipped out of your mouth, we're with you. Let's hope that others have learned from this folly and are laying off the alcohol and soy sauce. Dares can be fun, but not the kind that harm our bodies emotionally or physically — especially not permanently.