Unhealthy Effects of Tea
Brick tea in Tibet
For years our church has advised us not to drink tea. I know that several studies have come out recently about the positives of tea drinking. So I decided to dig a little deeper to find out why we were advised not to drink it. I came across the following article, written by Dennis Mangan, and felt he pretty much summed it up.
Much research over the past decade or so has emphasized the healthy aspects of tea drinking: its high concentration of polyphenols and other antioxidants provide significant protection against cancer, heart disease, and lots of other illnesses.
But wait. Might tea cause other illnesses, even as it prevents some? The answer is definitely yes, because of tea’s high fluoride content.
Skeletal flourosis caused by tea drinking.
The subject of the authors’ study is a 52-year old woman from St. Louis. The cause of the woman’s fluorosis appears two-fold: On one hand, she consumed well water with 2.8 ppm fluoride, and on the other hand, she drank up to 1-2 gallons per day of iced tea.
After learning of the woman’s high tea consumption, the authors analyzed the levels of fluoride in various types of instant tea. They found that levels ranged from 1 ppm to 6.5 ppm. The latter value, found in a sample of Lipton’s Instant Tea, exceeds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Maximum Contaminant Level for fluoride (4 ppm).
The resulting skeletal fluorosis that the woman developed from drinking well-water and instant tea, caused bone and joint pain throughout her body – not just in the spine where the bone changes were most advanced. The bone and joint pains included “neck and scapular pain and elbow and knee arthralgias.”
Perhaps the most revealing finding of the study, however, is the following:
Between 1993 and 1998, the woman went to several doctors to find out what might be causing the stiffness and pain in her back. The doctors took x-rays of her spine and found evidence of “marked osteosclerosis.” However, the doctors failed to diagnose her condition as fluorosis. Instead, they said she suffered from “disc disease.”
It wasn’t until the woman consulted Dr. Michael Whyte in 1998, that the correct diagnosis of skeletal fluorosis was made.
In a 55-yr-old woman with long-standing arthritis, but no obvious signs of fluorosis, X-rays exhibited degeneration of discs and calcification in disc spaces. Her daily fluoride intake, mainly from tea, exceeded 9 mg; her daily urinary excretion was 3 mg. When she discontinued consuming tea, her fluoride intake fell below 1 mg daily; excretion through the urine exceeded intake; the arthritic pains iminished and virtually ceased in 6 mo; mobility of her spine was restored and she was able to resume work. Arthritis of the spine of unknown cause might represent subclinical fluorisis which is not demonstrable radiologically.
Extrapolating from Roholm’s original figures, it follows that for a 100 lb person, at less than 2.5 mg/day fluoride intake, stage 1 of SF can occur within 10 years. At this same dosage rate, stage 2 of SF can occur after 19 years and crippling skeletal fluorosis after 45 years. There is evidence that some people are ingesting at least 5 mg/day, in which case the stages of skeletal fluorosis can occur after 5, 10 and 23 years, respectively.
Tibetans suffer from high rates of fluorosis from consumption of brick tea. I’ll spare you the excerpt, but I’ll just point out how nice it is of the Chinese to go to study fluorosis among the Tibetans. Goes just a smidgen towards making up for killing a couple million of ’em.
Conclusion: Crippling skeletal fluorosis represents the end stage of years of fluoride ingestion. More moderate symptoms – moderate unless you’re the one that has them – occur with shorter time periods and less consumption. And the proper diagnosis is almost certain to be missed by a doctor.
Full disclosure: I’ve only recently discovered the ill effects of fluoride and its pervasiveness in the environment, particularly in fluoridated water and in tea. Unfortunately, California wine is another important source. I’ve drunk from one to four cups of tea a day fro the past fifteen years. I’ve just stopped.