Too Much Tea --- Top 7 Health Dangers
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Too Much Tea --- Top 7 Health Dangers

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April 11, 2015, llast updated June 13, 2016
By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Is there such a thing as too much tea? Tea is a universally adored beverage and on any given day, over half of the American population has a cup or two, according to the Tea Association of the USA.

In 2014 we collectively drank over 3.60 billion gallons of tea – that’s a huge amount, although spread out over the country it’s not too dramatic.

Tea as a food item is generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But once you start drinking too much, the situation changes.

Tea may have many health benefits but too much tea can harm you. How much is too much tea? What health dangers do you risk when you drink a lot of tea?

What is Tea?

Tea is a leaf drink made from the plant Camellia sinensis. After harvest, the leaves begin to break down and darken through a process of oxidation. The amount of oxidation determines what type of tea you have – black tea (the most popular in the US) is fully oxidized while green tea is made from unoxidized leaves. You make tea by brewing the leaves with water.

Tea has a variety of components which many people claim provide health benefits, such as polyphenols including catechins, minerals, and amino acids. Tea also contains caffeine and other alkaloids like theophylline and theobromine, fluoride, and aluminum.

Tea is nearly 5,000 years old. During its long history it has been credited with numerous health benefits including heart protection and protection against cancer.

But is tea truly harmless?  Recent reports show that drinking too much of this popular beverage can be harmful to your health.

How Much is Too Much Tea?

In the studies shown below, affected people had been drinking upwards of eight, 10 or 16 cups of tea a day. A 2007 review carried out by researchers at King's College London (and sponsored by the Tea Council which authors say had no part in the study) found no evidence of harm “in amounts typically consumed…. A maximum intake of eight cups per day would minimize any risk relating to excess caffeine consumption” and other dangers, researchers stated, and they concluded that black tea generally had a positive effect on health.

However, more than eight cups could cause a problem.

If you want to avoid the potential health problems associated with lots of tea, you are advised to drink it in moderation.

Take a look at the scientific evidence into why too much tea can be dangerous.

1. Fluoride in Too Much Tea Causes Bone Decay and Pain

Too much fluoride can be very dangerous for your health. Consuming more than 4mg a day can cause bone decay, osteoporosis, muscle harm, and chronic pain.

Tea contains fluoride and a 2013 study by the University of Derby in the UK showed many economy brands of tea available in British supermarkets contained up to 120 percent of the daily value of fluoride.

When combined with fluoridated drinking water and toothpaste, levels of fluoride could be dangerously high if you drink too much tea. The study showed that just four cups a day provide 6mg of fluoride. Fluoride was a problem in economy teas as the older leaves, which contain most fluoride, are used to produce lower quality, stronger teas.

A 47-year-old woman developed brittle bones and lost her teeth after drinking too much tea, according to a letter published in the March 2013 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The woman reported drinking a pitcher of tea per day for 17 years made from 100 to 150 tea bags, providing around 20mg of fluoride a day.

2. Drinking Too Much Hot Tea Can Increase Risk of Cancer of the Esophagus

Be careful if you like your tea piping hot. A 2001 study from Aberdeen University in the UK showed women who drink too many hot cups of tea treble their risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.

The key is the temperature of the tea – women are three times more likely to suffer from cancer than women who drink tea warm. When you drink too many cups of hot tea a day you damage the lining of the esophagus and increase the cancer risk.

3. Drinking Too Much Tea Causes Kidney Failure

University of Arkansas physicians report the case of a 56-year-old man who arrived at the ER in Little Rock, Arkansas, in May 2014 reporting weakness, fatigue and body aches.

Blood tests revealed an excess of creatinine at more than four times the regular level and the man was discovered to be suffering from severe kidney failure.

On questioning, the man admitted to drinking 16 eight-ounce glasses of iced tea a day – the cause of the kidney problem.

Black tea is high in oxalate, a key chemical that causes kidney failure. At 16 cups of tea a day, the man was consuming 1,500mg of oxalate, almost 10 times higher than the average American.

4. Iced Tea Can Cause Kidney Stones

An Illinois man who drank six glasses of iced tea every day reported a serious case of kidney stones that resulted in surgery. A 2010 report from Loyola University Health System states that iced tea containing high concentrations of oxalate leads to the formation of kidney stones.

Hot tea also contains oxalate but it is not as easy to consume a large-enough quantity of hot tea per day to cause a kidney problem. The issue with iced tea is problematic, as approximately 85 percent of tea consumed in America is iced, according to the Tea Association of the USA.

5. Lots of Tea Can Affect Absorption of Folic Acid

Drinking a lot of black tea may decrease the absorption of folic acid into the blood stream, according to reports like a 2008 study from the Institute of Pharmacy, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Mainz in Germany.

Folic acid is an important vitamin that helps pregnant women in particular to ward off the risk of birth defects.

Limiting your tea consumption when pregnant is a wise decision to make.

6. Too Much Tea Lowers Your Uptake of Iron

Black and green tea can also inhibit the availability of iron in the diet – another reason for pregnant women, who are more at risk of iron deficiency, to limit tea consumption.

The effect, according to a 2006 study from Campus Universitario de Granada, Spain, is important for people suffering from iron-deficiency anemia.

Drinking lots of tea simply increases the risk that you are not getting enough iron from your food.

7. Too Much Tea Increases the Risk of Prostate Cancer

Drinking lots of cups of tea may not be good for the prostate, either.

A 2012 study from the University of Glasgow discovered that men who drink seven or more cups of tea a day were at a 50 percent higher risk of developing prostate cancer than men who didn’t drink tea.  [ Moreover, drinking too much green tea lowers testosterone levels.]

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