When to Say “When”


The recent news report of an Arkansas man who died of kidney failure caused by drinking excessive quantities of iced tea has raised some misguided concerns about tea and health

An otherwise healthy 56 year old man reportedly drank 16 eight-ounce glasses of iced tea on a daily basis, eventually causing his kidneys to shut down from an overload of oxalates. Doctors determined that his daily consumption of oxalate was more than 1500 mg per day, a level that is 3-10 times higher than the average American intake.

Oxalates are naturally-occurring substances found in plants, animals, and in the human body. Many common and healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains and seeds, as well as tea contain oxalates. As a comparison, a 3.5 oz serving of spinach contains approximately 750 milligrams of oxalates, while a serving of steeped black tea contains an average of 5-15 milligrams. So for most adults with unrestricted diets, oxalates in reasonable quantities are an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

As a cautionary tale, the lesson is not about tea or oxalates, but rather about enjoying all good things in moderation- and knowing when to say “when”.

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