Is Drinking Tea Bad for You?

A cup of black tea with honey dripping into it

Is drinking tea bad for you?

Let me begin by saying I love tea. I drink about five cups of tea a day and I look forward to and savour every cup and each refreshing sip. Tea is often the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, it warms me up after a walk in the cold outside, and it helps keep me alert and hydrated throughout the day.

Is Drinking Tea Bad For You?

So, it was with some dismay that I read an article in The Guardian this week which implied that drinking tea may be bad for you. The article cites the case of a 47-year-old woman, published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), who developed brittle bones and lost all of her teeth after drinking too much tea.

How Much Tea is Too Much?

In the NEJM study the woman had drunk a pitcher of tea made from 100 to 150 tea bags daily for the past 17 years. In another study, a 48-year-old woman complained of severe chronic bone and joint pain, and kyphosis after consuming 1–2 gallons of brewed orange pekoe tea daily for more than thirty years. One gallon is approximately 16 cups or 8 pints so that’s a lot of tea!

Skeletal Fluorosis from Tea Drinking

In both cases the women were diagnosed with skeletal fluorosis, a bone disease caused by the excessive consumption of fluoride found in tea. The symptoms of skeletal fluorosis include joint pain and stiffness and are difficult to diagnose as they often mimic the symptoms of arthritis and osteoporosis.

Fluoride Levels in Tea

A litre of black tea could contain as much as 9 milligrams of fluoride but you would have to ingest about 20 milligrams a day over 10 or more years before putting your bone health at risk. In all the reported cases of skeletal fluorosis caused by tea drinking the patients had drunk between 1-2 gallons of tea a day. Most people drink an average of three mugs of tea a day which is within safe limits.

Health Benefits of Tea

On the plus side, tea is known to contain health-boosting plant chemicals called polyphenols, which are antioxidants. It’s also been found to play a significant role in controlling diabetes, and reducing the risk of heart disease.

Go Ahead – Have a Cuppa Tea

For now all the evidence points to the fact that drinking tea in moderation is good for you. I’m taking that as cause for celebration. Anyone for a cuppa?

Read the full article in The Guardian: Is drinking tea bad for you?

Photo: Thanks to Neil Lall on Flickr.com

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