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.