It has been almost 50 years since Bruce Lee passed away. To this day, however, there are numerous assumptions as to what the martial arts legend actually died from. Now a new theory has been added. In a study, a group of Spanish doctors came to the conclusion that Lee simply drank too much water and overstrained his kidneys.

    “Ironically, Lee made the quote ‘Be water my friend’ famous, but excess water seems to have killed him in the end,” the study concludes. It was carried out by a group of nephrologists at the Autonomous University of Madrid and published in the Clinical Kidney Journal.

    The doctors suspect that Lee’s death was due to his “high, chronic fluid intake”. This leads to what is known as hyponatremia, i.e. the “inability to excrete enough water to maintain water homeostasis [also das Wassergleichgewicht des Körpers] to preserve”. They list several risk factors: Lee’s fluid-heavy diet that included drinking lots of juices, increased intake of alcohol and marijuana, and previous kidney dysfunction as a result of injury.

    Lee died unexpectedly on July 20, 1973 at the age of 32. Two months before his death, doctors diagnosed cerebral edema, i.e. fluid retention in the brain. Because this increases the intracranial pressure, it can be life-threatening. What led to the cerebral edema is still not certain today. However, after a brief treatment in the hospital, Lee appeared to be recovering.

    In the evening of July 20, Lee complained of a headache, so he took painkillers and lay down. A few hours later, his lover, Taiwanese actress Betty Ting Pei, found him unconscious. In the hospital, only Lee’s death could be determined. Doctors found severe brain swelling. The official cause of death was an allergic reaction to the painkiller administered.