Tea plants readily absorb fluoride from soil. As a result, tea drinks invariably contain high levels of fluoride. In the United States, brewed black tea averages about 3 to 4 parts ppm fluoride, while commercial iced tea drinks contain between 1 and 4 ppm. (Izuora 2011; Whyte 2006; USDA 2005). Excessive consumption of tea beverages thus creates a risk for fluoride toxicity.
A Risk of Fluoride Toxicity
In recent years, there have been a number of reports documenting skeletal fluorosis in the United States among heavy tea drinkers. Dr. Michael Whyte, who has authored several of these studies, cautions that “many” tea drinkers are currently receiving fluoride doses that put them at risk for skeletal fluorosis. (Whyte 2008). In Whyte’s studies, the tea drinkers who developed skeletal fluorosis had been misdiagnosed for years as suffering from arthritis and/or fibromylagia. In Whyte’s most recent study, a Georgia woman had crippling skeletal fluorosis for up to 18 years before being correctly diagnosed. (Whyte 2011). As some authors have noted, “it is certain that some heavy-tea drinkers suffering from fluorosis from tea-drinking might not be diagnosed.” (Yi & Cao 2008).
Benefits of Tea
While the fluoride levels in tea are high, it is important to also consider that tea leaves contain a natural antidote to fluoride toxicity: namely, anti-oxidants. In particular, tea contains high levels of “polyphenols” which are effective at countering oxidative stress in the body. Since oxidative stress is believed to be a key mechanism by which fluoride damages cells in the body, the high levels of anti-oxidants in some teas can help to mitigate the impact of the high fluoride levels.
Higher Quality Teas Have Lower Levels of Fluoride
Unfortunately, the tea products that contain the highest levels of fluoride also happen to be the tea products that contain the least anti-oxidants. This is because the level of anti-oxidant level in tea is lowest in old leaves (when fluoride content is at its highest), and highest in young leaves (when fluoride content is at its lowest). The fluoride content of tea has thus been proposed as an indicator of its quality: the more fluoride, the lower the anti-oxidants, and thus the lower the quality.
Minimizing Your Risk
To minimize your risk of fluoride toxicity from tea, therefore, it is best to drink tea drinks such as “white tea” that are made from young leaves. Since white tea provides more anti-oxidant protection and less fluoride than older teas it will reduce the risk (albeit not eliminate it) of developing fluoride toxicity. While this does not necessarily foreclose the risk of fluoride toxicity, it will reduce it vis-a-vis the fluoride risk from older, lower quality teas.
Another way of reducing fluoride intake from tea is to switch to yerba matte, a South American tea drink that has been found to contain minimal levels of fluoride.
- Data on Fluoride Levels in Tea
- Research on Skeletal Fluorosis in Tea Drinkers
- Link Between Age of Tea Leaf and Fluoride Content
Tea May Contain More Fluoride Than Once Thought, Research Shows
Black tea, a Southern staple and the world's most consumed beverage, may contain higher concentrations of fluoride than previously thought, which could pose problems for the heaviest tea drinkers, Medical College of Georgia researchers say. "The additional fluoride from drinking two to four cups of tea a day won't harm anyone;
Harmful Fluoride Levels Found in Instant Iced Tea
Instant iced tea mixes may contain potentially harmful levels of fluoride, according to a new study. The results indicate constantly quenching your thirst with instant iced teas may increase your risk of a rare, but potentially dangerous bone disorder caused by getting too much fluoride in your system.
Bottled Tea Beverages May Contain Fewer Polyphenols Than Brewed Tea
The first measurements of healthful antioxidant levels in commercial bottled tea beverages has concluded that health-conscious consumers may not be getting what they pay for: healthful doses of those antioxidants, or "poylphenols," that may ward off a range of diseases. Scientists reported at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical
Tea Intake Is a Risk Factor for Skeletal Fluorosis
A number of recent studies have found that heavy tea drinkers can develop skeletal fluorosis - a bone disease caused by excessive intake of fluoride.
Fluoride Content of Tea
Tea, particularly tea drinks made with lower quality older leaves, contain high levels of fluoride. Because of these high levels, research has found that individuals who drink large amounts of tea can develop skeletal fluorosis -- a painful bone disease caused by excessive fluoride intake. Since skeletal fluorosis is often misdiagnosed by
Exposure Pathways Linked to Skeletal Fluorosis
Excessive fluoride exposure from any source -- and from all sources combined -- can cause skeletal fluorosis. Some exposure pathways , however, have been specifically identified as placing individuals at risk of skeletal fluorosis. These exposure pathways include: Fluoridated Water for Kidney Patients Excessive Tea Consumption High-Fluoride Well Water Industrial Fluoride Exposure Fluorinated Pharmaceuticals (Voriconazole
Hydogen Fluoride - EPA 2000
HYDROFLUORIC ACID(a) 7664-39-3 Hazard Summary-Created in April 1992; Revised in January 2000 Hydrogen fluoride is used in the production of aluminum and chlorofluorocarbons, and in the glass etching and chemical industries. Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure to gaseous hydrogen fluoride can cause severe respiratory damage in humans, including severe irritation and pulmonary edema. Severe
Fluoride Content of Various Processed Beverages
When fluoride is added to public water supplies, it does not just go into the water, it goes all into all of the food products made with that water (e.g., soda, juice, beer, cereal, soup, etc). As a result, people living in non-fluoridated communities of heavily fluoridated countries like the
Naturally Occurring Levels of Fluoride in Fresh Food
Over the past 100 years, the levels of fluoride in foods purchased at the grocery store have increased. The reasons for this increase include: (1) the mass fluoridation of water supplies in some countries, (2) the introduction of fluoride-based pesticides, (3) the use of mechanical deboning processes, and, perhaps, (4)
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