Kung fu legend Bruce Lee might have died from drinking too much water, doctors have claimed nearly 50 years after he passed away.
The martial arts supremo-cum-Hollywood star died aged 32 in the summer of 1973 while in Hong Kong.
An autopsy at the time showed Bruce had died from brain swelling, which doctors blamed on him taking a painkiller.
His untimely passing sparked rumors he may have been assassinated by Chinese gangsters, poisoned by a jealous lover, or the victim of a curse. Another theory was 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.
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Hyponatremia means the sodium level in blood — which your body needs for fluid balance — is abnormally low.
An imbalance causes cells in the body to swell, including ones in the brain.
The study claims Bruce had multiple risk factors for hyponatraemia, including that he was drinking high quantities of liquid, using cannabis — which increases thirst — as well as other factors that decrease the ability of the kidneys, such as the use of prescription drugs and alcohol.
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His wife Linda revealed how Bruce had a fluid-based diet of carrot and apple juice in the run-up to his death.
And Matthew Polly — who wrote the biography Bruce Lee, A Life in 2018 — refers to repeated water intake on the evening of his death.
The study concluded: ‘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.
‘This may lead to hyponatraemia, cerebral oedema (brain swelling) 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.’
The researchers wrote that the fact the drinking of water was noted when it is ‘such a commonplace activity’ means it was likely ‘noticeably higher’ than those around him on the day he died.
Bruce has also been reported to have frequently used cannabis and in one letter described himself as ‘stoned as hell’.
Cannabis use can increase thirst and Mr Polly refers in his book to repeated use of the substance on July 20, 1973 — the day Bruce died.
The researchers suggest this may have been driving Bruce to drink excess water.
‘Ironically, Lee made famous the quote “Be water my friend”, but excess water appears to have ultimately killed him,’ they wrote.
Bruce’s death came just a few weeks before the release of Enter The Dragon – the first big Western-produced Kung fu film.
He had a near-miss in May 1973 after collapsing and going into spasms after an editing session in a dubbing room with no air conditioning.
A doctor diagnosed him with cerebral oedema and Bruce admitted that he had eaten some Nepalese hash shortly before the episode.
Bruce featured in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and was played by Mike Moh.