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Study Attributes Bruce Lee's Death to Too Much Water

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

In the nearly 50 years since Bruce Lee's death, there have been a host of theories as to what killed the martial arts star, everything from ninja assassins to smoking too much weed. But now a group of Spanish researchers claim to have uncovered the real culprit behind Lee's death: too much water.

In a study published in the Clinical Kidney Journal, the researchers offer evidence that a condition called "hyponatraemia," an inability by Lee's kidneys to excrete excess water, was what led to his July 1973 death in Hong Kong.

The official cause of Lee's death was listed as cerebral edema, a swelling of the brain, and attributed to an allergic reaction to a painkiller called Equagesic. But the new study notes Lee felt unwell before taking the painkiller - possible evidence of brain swelling prior to ingesting the drug - and that there were no additional symptoms of an allergic reaction present in the autopsy.

Examining other possible causes of death, such as epilepsy and heat stroke, the study indicates these seem unlikely as well. Instead, the researchers said Lee had several risk factors that made him a candidate for hyponatraemia including excessive fluid intake (he appears to have been on what's described as "a fluid-based diet"), he had factors like marijuana usage that may have increased his thirst even more and he had recently been drinking more alcohol and taking several drugs which could have decreased his kidneys' ability to excrete water.

As the paper notes, it's ironic that the man who popularized the motto "be water" may have died from too much of it.

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