• The celebrated actor died in Hong Kong in July 1973 at the age of 32
  • The official reason for his demise is cerebral edema caused by hypersensitivity to Equagesic
  • The researchers believe that the edema was the result of hyponatremia

Many theories have already emerged on what really caused Bruce Lee's death. The eclectic list ranges from assassination by gangsters to heatstroke. Interestingly, a new study posits that the culprit may have been the humble water.

Based on the information available in the public domain regarding Lee's death, a team of researchers has suggested that the martial arts expert and actor may have died from an excess of water. The findings of the study were published in the Clinical Kidney Journal.

The celebrated actor passed away in Hong Kong in July 1973 at the age of 32 after suffering cerebral edema or swelling of the brain. The researchers believe that the edema was the result of hyponatremia.

"In other words, we propose that the kidney's inability to excrete excess water killed Bruce Lee," the scientists wrote in the paper.

There were many factors that predisposed Lee to hyponatremia. He was reported to have been consuming copious amounts of liquid, such as juices and protein drinks on account of his diet. Moreover, he reportedly consumed marijuana, which may have compounded the condition since it makes one thirsty.

"We hypothesize that Bruce Lee died from a specific form of kidney dysfunction: the inability to excrete enough water to maintain water homeostasis," the researchers added.

The circumstances under which Lee died were mysterious, to say the least. The official reason for his demise was due to cerebral edema caused by hypersensitivity to Equagesic, a pill he took earlier that day. The medication, a combination of meprobamate and aspirin, was something he had had before as well.

The pill was given to Lee by Betty Ting Pei, who was rumored to be his lover, when the actor complained of headache and dizziness after having drunk water. As mentioned earlier, he was also reported to have consumed marijuana on that fateful day.

Lee went to the bedroom to rest after taking the pill. Two hours later, Ting Pei found Lee unconscious. She then called producer Raymond Chow to check on Lee. Unable to wake Lee up, the duo called a doctor. The doctor performed 10 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation but was unable to revive him. Lee was pronounced dead after his body was brought to a nearby hospital.

During the autopsy, no signs of external injuries and no tongue bite were observed. However, Lee's brain weight had increased to 1,575 grams, which was heavier compared to the normal 1,400 grams due to swelling of the brain. Traces of marijuana were also discovered in his stomach.

"Ironically, Lee made famous the quote 'Be water my friend,' but excess water appears to have ultimately killed him," the researchers concluded.

Bruce Lee
A security guard sits in front of an advertising poster of martial arts movie star Bruce Lee at the Olympic Park in Beijing, Nov. 4, 2009. Reuters