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

It’s been nearly 50 years since Bruce Lee passed away suddenly on July 20, 1973, in Hong Kong – and now a new study claims 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 the “inability of the kidneys to excrete excess water”.

Officials initially ruled the cause of death to be cerebral edema, or swelling of the brain. However, the authors claimed that the 32-year-old possessed “multiple risk factors for hyponatremia,” which means an extremely low concentration of sodium in one’s blood. They cited Lee’s “chronic fluid intake” as well as his use of marijuana, which increases thirst.

They also pointed to possible factors that could have interfered with the late star’s kidney function, including alcohol intake and a history of organ injuries.


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

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

“Given that hyponatremia is common, found in up to 40% of hospitalized individuals, and can cause death from excessive water ingestion even in young healthy individuals, there is a need for more widespread wide spread of the concept that drinking too much water 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, passed away in 1993 at the age of 28.


Bruce Lee acting in a movie still in a scene from the movie

Bruce Lee acting in a film still in a scene from Enter The Dragon, which premiered posthumously in 1973.
(Getty Images)

Over the years, Lee’s death has sparked many conspiracy theories. Some fans believed he may have been killed by gangsters, while others insisted he was the target of a curse. His last days were reviewed in a 2018 book titled Bruce Lee: A Life, which hypothesized that he died of heatstroke.

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“The key to understanding Bruce Lee’s death is that he fell 10 weeks ago 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 dubbing room on one of the hottest days of the month,” Polly explained. “They turned off the air conditioner so as not to spoil the soundtrack. He immediately became hot and dizzy. He left the room and fell to the ground again. He stood up again and when he entered the heated room, he fell again and started violently . They took him to the hospital and the doctors suspected that his brain was swollen… And so the first collapse looked exactly like a case of heatstroke.”


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

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

Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, told the Los Angeles Times in 1998 that Lee’s death was caused by a swelling of the brain due to hypersensitivity caused by an ingredient found in Equagesic. However, Polly insisted that Lee’s final moments during a heat wave in Hong Kong more closely mimicked the symptoms he experienced earlier.

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“At the time there were dozens and dozens of rumors – that he had been poisoned, that ninjas had beaten him, that someone had stabbed him to death,” Polly said. “There’s no evidence of a cover-up. My conclusion is heat stroke… It’s a very common killer of athletic youth.”

Polly claimed that a few months before the first incident, Lee had the sweat glands in his armpits surgically removed.


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

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

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

The current study did not find that temperatures were unusually high on the day Lee died. He claimed that while Lee had not consumed a large amount of water, his kidneys could not handle normal amounts of fluid until then.


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