Decades since Bruce Lee’s death, a new study has proposed that the martial arts icon might have died from a condition caused by drinking too much water.
A new study titled “Who killed Bruce Lee? The hyponatraemia hypothesis,” which was conducted by Spanish researchers, claimed that Lee died because of his “kidney’s inability to excrete excess water.” The study was published in the December 2022 edition of Clinical Kidney Journal and was released on the National Library of Medicine.
The researchers stressed that Lee had multiple risk factors for hyponatraemia, or a condition where sodium levels in the blood are below normal. The risk factors cited include the martial artist’s use of marijuana which increases thirst, and his “high chronic fluid intake,” among others.
“[We] hypothesize that Bruce Lee died from a specific form of kidney dysfunction: the inability to excrete enough water to maintain water homeostasis, which is mainly a tubular function,” they stated in their study. “This may lead to hyponatraemia, cerebral oedema and death within hours if excess water intake is not matched by water excretion in urine, which is in line with the timeline of Lee’s demise.”
“Ironically, Lee made famous the quote ‘Be water my friend,’ but excess water appears to have ultimately killed him,” they added.
Hyponatraemia is a common condition, as it is found in about 40% of hospitalized individuals and can be a cause of death even in young healthy people. Given this, the researchers called for “wider dissemination of the concept that excessive water intake can kill.”
Lee died in July 1973 in Hong Kong, at the age of 32. While his cause of death is unknown, numerous theories have been proposed, including a severe allergic reaction to aspirin and assassination by gangsters.
The most recent hypothesis, stated in the 2018 book “Bruce Lee: A Life,” meanwhile, claimed that Lee died due to heat exhaustion, though the current study found that temperatures were not “abnormally high” around the time of his death.