Most of us recognize drinking too much is not healthy, drinking too much alcohol, that is. But too much tea? The New England Journal of Medicine published a report Friday that is the story of a woman who did just that, making herself ill in the process.
Drs. Naveen Kakumanu and Sudhaker D. Rao of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit submitted the report to the journal. They wrote that the unidentified 47-year-old American woman "reported a 5-year history of pain in the lower back, arms, legs, and hips. Because of brittleness, all her teeth had been extracted." Tests determined that this was because she has an illness called skeletal fluorosis.
Skeletal fluorosis is often present in countries where the drinking water has a high concentration of fluoride, not the case in the United States. However, as the doctors' report notes, "brewed tea has one of the highest fluoride contents among beverages in the United States." Knowing that, they asked the woman about her tea consumption.
"The patient reported that for the past 17 years, she has habitually consumed a pitcher of tea made from 100 to 150 tea bags daily," the doctors noted. That, they said, comes out to an approximate intake of fluoride of >20 mg per daily. Along with a lot of trips to the bathroom, drinking that much tea is easily enough to create skeletal fluorosis.
The woman has managed to wean herself off of tea entirely, with a result that she now reports fewer and less severe symptoms. However, depleting skeletal fluoride can take years so the doctors are considering other options to quicken the depletion process.