Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea?

Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea?

September 11, 2019 25 By Ewald Bahringer


“Is There Too Much Aluminum in Tea?” Aluminum is the third most abundant element on Earth,
and may not be good for our brain— something we learned studying
foundry workers exposed to high levels. Though the role of aluminum in the development of
brain diseases like Alzheimer’s is controversial, to be prudent, steps should probably be taken
to lessen human exposure to this metal. There are a number of aluminum-containing
drugs on the market like antacids, which have the highest level, though aluminum compounds can
also added to processed foods as anti-caking agents in pancake mix, melting agents in American cheese,
meat binders, gravy thickeners, rising agents in some baking powders,
and dye-binders in candy. So it’s probably better to stick
to unprocessed, natural foods. However, if you cook those natural
foods in an aluminum pot, a significant amount can leach into the food,
compared to cooking in stainless steel. If you do the same thing with tea, though, you get a few milligrams of aluminum
regardless of what type of pot you use, suggesting the aluminum is in the tea itself. And indeed back in the 1950s, it was noticed that tea plants
tend suck up aluminum from the soil, but like anything,
it’s the dose that makes the poison. According to the World Health Organization, the provisional tolerable weekly intake– our best guess at a safety limit for aluminum– is 2 mg per healthy kilogram
of body weight per week, which is nearly a milligram per pound, so someone who’s around 150 pounds
probably shouldn’t ingest more than 20 mg of aluminum per day. Up to a fifth of intake
may come from beverages, so what we drink probably shouldn’t
contribute more than about 4 mg a day, which is the amount found in about 5 cups
of green, black, or oolong tea. So should we not drink more
than 5 cups of tea a day? Well, it’s not what we eat or drink;
it’s what we absorb. If you just measured how
much aluminum was in tea, it would seem as though a couple cups could
double our aluminum intake for the day, but if you measure the level of aluminum in people’s
bodies after they drink tea, it doesn’t go up. This suggests that the bioavailability
of aluminum in tea is low, possibly because most of the extractable
aluminum in brewed tea is strongly bound to these large phytonutrients that are not easily
absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, so it just passes right through, our intestines get flushed away without
actually getting inside our body. Probably more than 90% of
the aluminum in tea is bound up. But what about studies like this showing
a large spike in aluminum excretion through our urine after drinking
tea compared to water? The only way for something to get
from our mouth to our bladder is to first be absorbed into our bloodstream, but they weren’t comparing the
same quantity of tea and water. They had the study subjects chug
down like 8-1/2 cups of tea, or just drink water at their leisure, so the tea drinkers peed a lot more, period, so the aluminum content was no
different really, tea versus water, suggesting that gross aluminum
absorption from tea is unlikely and that only little aluminum is
potentially available for absorption. So though as few as 4 cups of tea could
provide 100% of one’s daily aluminum limit, the percentage available for absorption in
the intestine may be less than 10%. Therefore, it is unlikely that moderate amounts
of tea drinking can have any harmful effects on humans. However that’s for people with
normal aluminum excretion. For example, tea may not be a good
beverage for children with kidney failure, since they can’t get rid
of the aluminum as efficiently. For most people, though,
tea shouldn’t be a problem. Though if you drink tea out of a can,
buy undented cans, as the aluminum in dented cans
can leach into the liquid boosting aluminum levels by a factor of 8
sitting on store shelves for a year.