Black tea is the most popular beverage in the world. Tea drinkers gain several health benefits including protecting their teeth because of the naturally occurring fluoride contained in brewed black tea. While we have known about the natural fluoride in tea for some time, new research from the Medical College of Georgia suggests that the levels are higher than previously thought.
Fluoride is known to help prevent dental cavities and many municipal water supplies add fluoride to drinking water for just that purpose. When fluoride is consumed in excessive amounts over long periods it can cause bone problems.
Dr. Gary Whitford decided to look at the tests used to detect fluoride levels in tea after reviewing data from four patients with advanced skeletal fluorisis, a disease caused by too much fluoride consumption. The link between the patients who suffered from this rare condition was excessive tea drinking. Each of the patients drank between 1-2 gallons of tea a day for a decade or more. When the tea brands used by the patients were tested using a traditional testing method the fluoride amounts seemed very low.
Dr. Whitford knew that the tea plant was unusual in that it accumulates large amounts of fluoride and aluminum in its leaves. Testing was then done using a diffusion method that breaks the chemical bonds between the fluoride and aluminum allowing all of the fluoride to be measured. The amount in each sample was 1.4 to 3.3 times higher than previously measured.
“The additional fluoride from drinking two to four cups of tea a day won’t harm anyone” according to Dr. Whitford. “The bottom line is to enjoy your favorite tea, but like everything else, drink it in moderation.”