Bruce Lee Died From Too Much Of Something Good?

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A new study has found that Bruce Lee’s death could have been caused by ingesting too much water, as his kidneys were already failing.

By Lauren Boisvert
| Published

Bruce Lee’s sudden death in 1973 at the age of 32 has long been the subject of research and deliberation. People always thought that he died singularly of cerebral oedema, which is swelling in the brain. But, a new research paper has possibly solved the mystery of the actor and martial artist’s strange death, as essentially, Bruce Lee did die from too much of a good thing: water.

Per Variety, kidney specialists in Spain authored the new study. It was published in the recent issue of the Clinical Kidney Journal. According to the paper, Bruce Lee had “multiple risk factors for hyponatremia,” which is an abnormally low concentration of sodium in one’s blood. The actor had “chronic fluid intake,” according to the paper. He also used marijuana which increases thirst and had a history of using prescription drugs and alcohol. Additionally, he had multiple injuries to his kidneys from being a martial artist.

Reportedly, Bruce Lee was also living on an almost completely liquid diet before his death. That coupled with his kidney dysfunction likely led to his sudden death. According to the study, he had been drinking excessive amounts of water on the day he died. But his kidneys were in such bad shape that they couldn’t hold up.

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

Essentially, Bruce Lee died because he drank more water than his body could get rid of. “Given that hyponatremia is frequent, as is found in up to 40% of hospitalized persons and may cause death due to excessive water ingestion even in young healthy persons, there is a need for a wider dissemination of the concept that excessive water intake can kill,” the paper concludes.

While more studies could find that Bruce Lee’s death was certainly tragic and could have possibly been prevented, he has still left an imprint on cinema, even to this day. Lee’s fighting prowess has also led to inspiration being used in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Lee is the inspiration behind one of the most successful MCU characters: Shang Chi.

A scene from 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was actually influenced by actor and martial art expert Bruce Lee, and an interview with two of the stunt designers on the film reveals the inspiration.

Specifically, there was a fight early in the film on a San Francisco bus. Action designers Yung Lee and Chris Cowan sat down with Corridor Crew to talk about action and inspiration for the scene, thinking about how to utilize Bruce Lee’s skillset.

Since his debut in the Marvel comics in the 1970s, Shang-Chi’s character has been influenced by Bruce Lee. That’s why Yung Lee and Chris Cowan paid tribute to the actor with a variation of his one-inch punch in the bus scene.

Bruce Lee’s one-inch punch is a training exercise from Southern Chinese martial arts, performed from zero to six inches away from a target. Southern Chinese martial arts focus more on hand techniques, as opposed to Northern Chinese martial arts, which rely mostly on kicking. Lee first demonstrated the one-inch punch in 1964. Allegedly, he sent a 245-pound man flying backward, all from one close-range punch.

Clearly, Bruce Lee is still inspiring actors and designers almost 50 years after his death. That has to say something about his staying power as a performer and martial arts expert.