Tea and Fluoride
What Does the USDA Say?

A tea and fluoride database released by the USDA reveals which type of tea contains too much fluoride.

A September 2008 press release by the New York State Coalition Opposed to Fluoridation highlighted the dangers of drinking black tea with fluoridated water.

Tea has naturally high fluoride levels. Excess fluoride can weaken bones and discolor children's un-erupted teeth.

According to Cao et al. in a tea and fluoride study published in Food Chemistry, 4 cups of tea delivered 0.8 to 1.8 mg of fluoride. To quote the author:

Among populations habitually consuming black tea, water fluoridation is not only unnecessary but also possibly harmful...The target organs of chronic fluoride intoxication are not only the teeth and skeleton, but also the liver, kidney, nervous and reproductive systems.

A March 2008 tea and fluoride study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology found up to 4.5, 1.8, and 0.5 mg/L fluoride in black, green and white teas, respectively, when brewed for 5 minutes. 61 teas were included in the sample.

According to 1997 ADA data, 3 and 4 milligrams daily are adequate for women and men, respectively, to prevent fluoride's adverse effects. It is much lower for children. In 2006, the National Research Council reported the basis for those levels should be reduced.

USDA Database

Want to know which foods and beverages may contain too much fluoride? The USDA database, which contains the fluoride content of more than 400 foods and beverages, may be just what you need.

According to the USDA, this is the first comprehensive study of its kind:

For more than half a century, to prevent tooth decay, small amounts of fluoride have been added to many U.S. municipal water supplies. That fluoride, as well as naturally occurring fluoride from wells and other water sources, subsequently finds its way into water-based beverages and foods.

An Adequate Intake level has been set for fluoride at 3 milligrams (mgs) daily for women and 4 mgs daily for men. But until now, scant data existed on the quantity of fluoride in the national food supply.

Which Tea?

Fluoride content 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 (ppm).

What does the database say about which tea to drink?

In my previous tea and fluoride article, I have advised drinking tea made from young tea shoots (i.e. green tea rather than black tea). I have also cautioned against the more processed tea, as the use of fluoridated water during tea processing can add to fluoride content. It is comforting to note that the USDA results seconded my recommendations.

Here are some highlights:

Choose green tea over black tea. Brewed black tea has 3.7 ppm, whereas green tea has only 1.2 ppm.

Avoid highly processed tea. Instant tea powder with lemon and sugar has 5.8 ppm. Decaffeinated green tea has 2.7 ppm.

These figures are just the industrial average. Actual fluoride content will vary from brand to brand.

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Press Release 24 September 2008. Market Watch. Fluoridation and Tea Don't Mix, Studies Continue to Show. http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/fluoridation-tea-dont-mix-studies

USDA. USDA National Fluoride Database of Selected Beverages and Foods, Release 2. http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12354500/Data/Fluoride/F02.pdf

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