Fluoride in Green Tea
Danger in Lipton Instant Iced Tea!

A 2005 case study found that fluoride in green tea can be dangerous when taken in large amounts. How can you avoid them?

We get most of the fluoride our body needs from drinking water.

It is important to get the balance right. Low levels of fluoride help prevent dental caries, but a high level is harmful to teeth and bone.

How much fluoride is too much?

Fluoride in green tea is measured in parts per million (ppm). 1 ppm is equivalent to 1 milligram of fluoride in 1 litre of water.

In the United States, drinking water can contain up to a maximum of 4 parts per million. This is equivalent to 1 milligram of fluoride in an 8-ounce cup.

What are the signs of fluoride overdose?

Early warnings are dental problems such as staining and pitting. Consuming a large amount over many years can lead to a condition called skeletal fluorosis.

Skeletal fluorosis occurs when fluoride builds up in bone over many years, causing stiffness and pain in the joints. In severe cases, bone structures change and ligaments calcify, causing muscle impairment and pain.

Which product is most likely to have the most fluoride in green tea?

Instant Iced Tea

In his 2005 paper, Dr. Michael Whyte from the Washington University in St Louis raised concerns about instant iced tea. He reported a middle aged woman who was diagnosed with skeletal fluorosis for two reasons:

  • She drank well water of 2.8 parts per million, below the maximum of 4 permitted by US Regulation.

  • Because of the hot weather, she drank one to two gallons of double strength instant iced tea each day.

This led the researchers to test the fluoride content of instant tea available on the supermarket shelves. They found that these instant teas contained 1.0 to 6.5 part per million of fluoride!

Lipton's Instant tea tested 6.5, well above the maximum level of 4 permitted by the US Regulation!

Dr. Michael Whyte said:

Our concern is that skeletal fluorosis might result from drinking instant teas, especially when excessive volumes in hot environments or extra-strength preparations are consumed, or when fluoridated or fluoride-contaminated water is used.

When fluoride gets into your bones, it stays there for years, and there is no established treatment for skeletal fluorosis. No one knows if you can fully recover from it.

The tea plant is known to accumulate fluoride from the soil and water. Our study points to the need for further investigation of the fluoride content of teas. We don't know how much variation there is from brand to brand and year to year.

The Tea Council of the United States responded:

The average 8-ounce serving of instant tea contains 0.78 milligram of fluoride. The Environmental Protection Agency has stated that, in drinking water, up to 1 milligram per 8-ounce serving is a safe level for adults.

They are quoting the average. But how many of those Lipton's Instant tea drinks are lurking out there? Nobody knows.

How To Avoid Too Much Fluoride In Green Tea?

According Dr. Michael Whyte, it would take at least 10 milligrams of fluoride daily for 10 years to begin to show signs of fluorosis on bone x-rays. If you are concerned about excessive fluoride in green tea, don’t worry. Nobody has to suffer from it. Here are a few practical tips:

  • Stick to the UK Tea Council’s guideline. Drink not more than 6 cups of tea day. In the study, the woman drank 17 to 33 cups a day, double-strength. This is obviously excessive. Over-consuming any healthy food is dangerous.

  • Beware of other fluoride sources, such as fluorinated toothpastes and other dental products. More unusual fluoride sources include pesticides, Teflon-coated cookware, chewing tobacco, and some wines and mineral waters.

  • Avoid decaffeinated green tea. A 1996 study conducted by University of Texas found that decaffeinated tea contains an average of 3.2 parts per million of fluoride, twice the level found in regular tea, which contains 1.5. The authors suggested this is due to the use of high fluoride mineral water during the decaffeination process.

  • Drink high grade loose green tea made from young tea buds.

The tea plant accumulates fluoride from soil and water. The younger the leaves, the less fluoride it contains. According to some sources, mature, old leaves can contain 10 to 20 times more fluoride than the young tea shoots from the same tea plant.

These tender shoots are the sweetest and tastiest. They are the richest in catechins, which contains all the antioxidants, and the sweet and fresh tasting theanine, which calms and soothes the mind.

Still concerned about consuming too much fluoride in green tea? Go for the highest grade green tea made from the youngest tea shoots!

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M.Whyte, K. Essmyer, F. Gannon, W. Reinus (2005). Skeletal fluorosis and instant tea. The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 118, Issue 1, Pages 78-82.

Statement Regarding Research Conducted at Washington University on Skeletal Fluorosis and Instant Tea (Issued January 26, 2005). Tea Council USA. http://www.teausa.com/general/tea_and_fluoride.cfm#.

Chan JT, Koh SH (1996). Fluoride content in caffeinated, decaffeinated and herbal teas. Caries research 1996;30(1):88-92. Department of Basic Sciences, University of Texas Houston Health Science Center, USA.

US Department of Agriculture. USDA Database for the Flavanoid Content of Selected Foods Release 2.1. http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/Data/Flav/Flav02-1.pdf

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