Tea Pages

Living Life One Cup at a Time

Reading the Fine Print

Written By: Katrina - Mar• 23•13

We are such a reactionary society.

What? You’re waiting for more. Oh, okay.

Too often we accept the eight word bullet instead of demanding the full report. We want a yes/no instead of qualifications. Black and white only, please. This approach irritates me most of the time, but especially when there is reporting about research results.

What many people don’t know about me is that not only was I was a biology major in college, but I spent three summers working for the USDA in research labs. I have a deep respect for scientific research — its value and its limitations. It is for this reason that I am mistrustful of bold headlines announcing results because I know that many will not read further.

This week my blood pressure rose as I saw headlines like: “Warning: Excessive Tea Drinking Can Be Hazardous to your Health” (Los Angeles Times), “Too Many Cups of Tea Can Give You Bone Disease” (MSN Now), “Woman Loses All her Teeth and Develops Rare Bone Disease after Drinking Too Much TEA” (Daily Mail), and “Noooo! Too Much Tea Is Bad for You” (Cosmopolitan). As you expect, I drink a fair amount of tea, so I was intrigued enough to follow the story. I thought to myself, “Great. For years there has been all this focus on how healthy tea is and now there’s this mysterious condition we’ll all develop.” But I was also very skeptical about the whole thing.

And rightly so. The REAL story is that a Detroit woman did develop skeletal fluorosis, a condition caused by high fluoride concentrations in the body. Skeletal fluorosis causes bone to become extremely hard, making them brittle and prone to breakage. The patient in this case had lost all her teeth and was in tremendous pain in her limbs and back. The source of the flouride? Tea. Scary, right? Well, sort of.

Here’s part two of the story – the part that most people will never read because they only hear the very scary headline. For nearly 30 years this woman was drinking 1-2 GALLONS of tea per day. And not just that. She steeped these 1-2 gallons of tea using between 100 and 150 teabags. Huh. Now THAT is some serious builders tea.

150 teabags per day. I can’t even begin to comprehend consuming tea in those volumes and strengths. I guess my bones are safe.

And yet I have a feeling that there are people all over the country who now believe that tea is bad for you.

Please remember, science is your friend.

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11 Comments

  1. I went through a very similar process when I saw this story. I drink a lot of tea, but certainly not that much! I’m going to be posting this link and the original story in my “Highlights” post this week…it’s too strange not to share, especially for someone who is so into tea.

  2. I’ve been trying to tell everyone that I see talk about this story about the high concentration in hopes that I can make them understand that it wasn’t the tea’s fault. Love your new layout by the way!

  3. Bob Williford says:

    I agree. Bold headlines often give me pause but I wonder if something good might come from this after all the fuss settles. Namely, that people might drink tea because of the taste not because it will improve your sex life or help you live to be a hundred.

  4. janet says:

    Too much of most things is bad for people; hence the idea of moderation! :-) The other thing about science and all the studies we see is that it’s very, very difficult to do a study that factors out all things except the one or two the study is studying. That’s one of the reasons is seems that what’s good or bad for you changes so often.

    That being said, I do get tired of always reading about how many things are bad for me. I’d rather more people took a positive approach even if it started, “Such-and-such has been found to kill you within five minutes, but you eat/drink this-and-that, it will do these wonderful things for you.” :-)

    janet

  5. Tracy says:

    Wow, lesson learned. I always try to be conscious to not simply read headlines, for this exact reason. This is a nice reminder, though, Katrina. So, thank you. Gotta go….just steeping a cup!

  6. Katrina, when I see misleading headlines in certain news outlets, I’m not the least bit surprised. But when it’s a prestigious long-standing outlet, I’m disappointed. I drink tea at least eight times a day, and I’m not worried!

  7. [...] This week there was a story in the news about a woman who lost her teeth due to her overconsumption of tea.  Initially, I was sort of freaked out because I can consume a decent amount of tea in a day.  At the same time, I knew there had to be more to the story.  Katrina from Tea Pages did a little more digging and provided some details to put my mind at ease. [...]

  8. Steph W says:

    Yes, I am very disappointed with the journalists that sensationalized this story for something that is a very rare “one-off” case!

  9. Geoff says:

    I watched a newsvid that said something about forty out of fifty “cancer food” claims may be b.s. Science sometimes sensationalizes, too.

  10. kate says:

    Being from England – the land where tea is the cure for everything, I did delve further on this one because the amount of tea drunk in England would produce a large number of cases if normal drinking was the issue. It does bother me that the highlights though were only sent out and the details glossed over. With the amount of liquids she was drinking she was lucky to survive 30 yrs without anything else happening too her before now. It did bring me to see the Tea Pages though – which is great!

  11. Ed Gant says:

    This article just shows me that you can make a case in point any way the writer wants. Why didn’t they comment on how often the women in this article had to use the bathroom?