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Woman Loses All of Her Teeth, Develops Rare Bone Disorder after Drinking Too Much Tea

Update Date: Mar 22, 2013 11:16 AM EDT

It's generally considered that tea is a healthy beverage to drink. It is but, like all things, is only healthy in moderation. One woman learned that lesson the hard way when her tea addiction caused her to develop a rare bone disorder and lose all of her teeth.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the 47-year-old woman saw her doctor to complain about her bones, which had given her pain in her arms, hips, legs and lower back for the past five years. Her teeth had also become so brittle that they needed to be removed. Fearing that she had cancer, her doctor took scans of her bones. Her scans showed that her bones were unusually dense, but there were no signs of cancer.

Her doctor referred her to Dr. Sudhaker Rao, who worked for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, as HealthDay reports. Fortunately for the woman, he was from an area in India where there is a problem with a condition called skeletal fluorosis.

The X-ray revealed that her spine did show signs of skeletal fluorosis. In fact, when the doctor tried to perform a biopsy, he found that her bones were like steel, about seven times harder than a normal bone. When a blood test was performed in order to find out how much fluoride was in the woman's system, they were astounded. In a normal person, the fluoride concentration is about 0.10 milligrams per liter; in this woman, the concentration was more than four times that, with 0.43 milligrams per liter.

The condition appears in regions where there is a high amount of fluoride in the water supply - much higher than the traces of fluoride that municipalities insert into water in the United States. It can also appear in industrial workers who inhale a large amount of fluoride fumes and dust.

The woman would not have ingested the large amount of fluoride from either of those sources, however. Doctors did, however, find the source: black tea. The woman had imbibed a pitcher of tea every day for the past 17 years. This was no normal pitcher of tea though; she flavored it with 100 to 150 tea bags. While a liter of tea typically has about 1 to 5 milligrams, her strong brew provided her with 20 milligrams of tea each day.

The woman has stopped drinking tea and her pain has alleviated. Her doctor is considering a variety of methods to remove the excess fluoride from her body more quickly than the natural bodily processes.

The case study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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