Martial arts legend Bruce Lee may have died from drinking too much water, a study suggests.
The Enter The Dragon star passed away aged 32 in Hong Kong in July 1973, with an autopsy showing he died from cerebral oedema, or brain swelling, which was thought to be a reaction to a painkiller he had taken.
Several theories have been put forward to explain the star’s death, including assassination by Chinese gangsters or that he died from heatstroke.
However, researchers have now suggested the oedema which killed him may have been brought on by hyponatraemia.
“In other words, we propose that the kidney’s inability to excrete excess water killed Bruce Lee,” the team of researchers wrote in the Clinical Kidney Journal.
They said several factors suggest he had been consuming high quantities of water, such as his wife Linda referring to a fluid-based diet including carrot and apple juice and his biographer, Matthew Polly, repeatedly referring to water intake on the day of his death and just before he became noticeably ill.
“We suggest that the fact that water intake was repeatedly noticed when it is such a commonplace activity that might have been forgotten given the exceptional circumstances means that it was indeed noticeably higher than the intake of other persons present on the day that Lee died,” they wrote.
He also used cannabis, which causes increased thirst, and is known to have taken the drug throughout the day he died.
Other factors that may have contributed include the use of prescription drugs and alcohol.
‘Be water my friend’
“In conclusion, 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,” the researchers said.
“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.”
They added: “The fact that we are 60% water does not protect us from the potentially lethal consequences of drinking water at a faster rate than our kidneys can excrete excess water.
“Ironically, Lee made famous the quote ‘Be water my friend’, but excess water appears to have ultimately killed him.”
Bruce Lee’s daughter says Tarantino should ‘shut up’ about her dad
Controversy over latest portrayal
Lee was depicted in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 film Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood by actor Mike Moh.
Lee’s daughter criticised the portrayal and called on Tarantino to apologise.
“He could shut up about it. That would be really nice,” Lee’s daughter Shannon told Variety.
“Or he could apologise or he could say, ‘I don’t really know what Bruce Lee was like. I just wrote it for my movie. But that shouldn’t be taken as how he really was’.”
However, Tarantino addressed the controversy during an appearance on Joe Rogan’s podcast last year, saying: “Where I’m coming from is I can understand his daughter having a problem with it. It’s her f***ing father. Everyone else: go suck a d***.”