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Is Excessive Tea Drinking Bad for You?

Drinking tea has a considerable number of health benefits, but too much tea could cause problems, according to a new study. Find out why sipping tea is good – in moderation.

Tea drinking is growing in popularity in this country – although America still lags behind the rest of the world in terms of its popularity. Most studies show that drinking tea has health benefits; but now there’s a new reason to drink it only in moderation. New information from the Medical College of Georgia suggests that excessive tea drinking too much tea can increase the risk of a condition called skeletal fluorosis.

What is Skeletal Fluorosis?

Skeletal fluorosis is a condition where excess fluoride is deposited in bones and joint. This condition may be asymptomatic at first, but as it progresses, it can lead to joint pain, stiffness, bone pain, and muscle weakness. In its most advanced stage, it causes deformities of the spine and wasting of the muscles. Too much fluoride from water, tea, or through other exposures can cause discoloration of the teeth in children – with visible brown and white spots.

Most cases of skeletal flourosis come from occupational exposure to fluoride, although fluoride can also come from drinking water or tea, especially a type of tea called brick tea, which is popular in China. Fluoride is also found in some pesticides.

Excessive Tea Drinking: Can Fluoride in Tea Cause Skeletal Fluorosis?

Doctors at Medical College of Georgia have identified four cases of skeletal fluorosis in patients who drank large amounts of tea. These patients reportedly consumed up to two gallons of tea every day for several decades. There have been other cases of skeletal fluorosis, although these have occurred almost drank very large amounts of tea (several liters) over many years.

Based upon these reports, doctors looked more closely at the fluoride content of black tea. Most previous studies show that a liter of black tea contains between one and five milligrams of fluoride. Upon closer investigation, the doctors found that some teas contain up to nine milligrams in a single liter – more than double what was expected.

Fluoride in Tea: How Does It Get There?

The fluoride in tea comes from the soil and water the tea plant, Camelia sinensis, needs to grow. The tea plant very easily takes up and accumulates fluoride from the soil. In addition, water is fluorinated, so a cup of tea may contain a fair amount of fluoride.

Fluoride in Tea: Should You Drink It?

Keep in mind that all of the documented cases of skeletal fluorosis have occurred with excessive tea drinking involving more than a liter a day – for at least a decade. Most people don’t drink this much tea and are probably not in danger of skeletal fluorosis. On the other hand, it’s best to limit tea consumption by children because the risk of tooth mottling. What about adults? Most people can safely drink up to five cups of tea a day – so moderation is key. One word of caution. Avoid drinking instant tea since it may be higher in fluoride than tea brewed fresh from tea leaves. Brew your own tea at home and drink it in moderation to reap the antioxidant benefits.

References:

Beverage Daily website. “Excessive tea drinking linked to skeletal fluorosis”

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