A new study published in Clinical Kidney Journal has proposed that Bruce Lee’s death was caused by the martial arts legend’s “high chronic fluid intake,” or simply, his tendency to drink too much water.
The paper, written by a group of kidney doctors from the Autonomous University of Madrid, suggests that the cerebral oedema that led to the 32-year old actor’s sudden passing on July 20th, 1973 was likely due to hyponatraemia, or “the inability to excrete enough water to maintain water homeostasis.” Lee would have been plausible candidate for the condition as the authors listed multiple risk factors including his liquid-heavy diet of juices, an increased intake of alcohol and marijuana, and prior kidney dysfunction as a result of injury.
Bruce Lee’s official cause of death was determined to be a hypersensitivity to Equagesic, a painkiller that he consumed at a friend’s house in Hong Kong after experiencing a headache and dizziness. The report noted that Lee had previously used the drug without incident and he had already been feeling unwell before taking it, but according to past witness accounts, he did drink a glass of water before any symptoms occurred.
The paper also scrutinized a more recent theory that claimed Lee died from heatstroke before landing its final blow in the conclusion, which reads, “Ironically, Lee made famous the quote ‘Be water my friend’, but excess water appears to have ultimately killed him.”
In 2020, Lee’s “Be water my friend” quote inspired the RZA song “Be Like Water,” which soundtracked a documentary on the Enter the Dragon icon.