According to new research from the Medical College of Georgia, black tea, the world’s most popular beverage contains higher concentrations of fluoride than once thought, which could present problems for heavy tea drinkers.
Dr. Gary Whitford, Regents Professor of oral biology in the School of Dentistry assures black tea drinkers that drinking two to four cups of tea a day is not harmful. However, those who consume more than that could be in trouble. Previous reports showed that black tea contains 1 to 5 milligrams of fluoride per liter, but this latest study shows that the number is sometimes as high as 9 milligrams.
Fluoride does help prevent dental cavities, but consuming over four cups of tea for long periods of time can cause bone problems. The average person consumes about 2 to 3 milligrams of fluoride a day through drinking water, food, and toothpaste, which will cause no harm. Ingesting 20 milligrams a day for over ten years, however, can pose a significant risk to bone health.
Whitford started this study when he discovered four patients afflicted with advanced skeletal fluorosis, a bone and joint disease caused by consuming excessive amounts of fluoride. All four patients had one thing in common: they drank 1 to 2 gallons of tea daily for the last 10 to 30 years. His team first tested the patients’ tea brands with the traditional method, which consists of measuring fluoride but not measuring the amount that combines with aluminum within the tea leaves to create aluminum fluoride, a compound not detected by the traditional method. Whitford then used a diffusion method that severs the aluminum fluoride bonds, therefore allowing all fluoride to be accurately measured.
Whitford’s team tested seven brands of black tea commonly found in stores with the diffusion method and discovered that the amount of fluoride in each was 1.4 to 3.3 times higher than the traditional method detected.
While this study does raise some concerns, it should not stop tea drinkers from consuming their favorite beverage. In moderate amounts, it’s very safe and many teas have additional health benefits. This is just yet another example of consuming everything in moderation.