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Surprising Science

The Man Who Almost Died From Drinking Tea

The study of when too much of a good thing can kill you — about 16 glasses every day.

You can have too much of a good thing. James Hamblin from The Atlantic writes that a 56-year-old man arrived at the hospital, complaining of body aches, nausea, and fatigue. After the doctors took some blood for testing, they found it was bursting with creatinine — he was experiencing kidney failure.

After more tests, the doctors found oxalate crystals in his urine. This sign usually leads doctors to question patients as to whether or not they’ve been downing antifreeze. The patient denied it (as people who consume antifreeze typically do), however, the doctors wrote in their report, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, “On further questioning, the patient admitted to drinking 16 eight-ounce glasses of iced tea daily.”

Nephrologist Umbar Ghaffar said in an interview:

“That’s what we think was the cause of his kidney failure.”

Too much of any good thing can be quite harmful. Oxalate isn’t just a chemical that’s a metabolic byproduct of tea, but it’s in spinach as well. That’s not to say you shouldn’t eat spinach or never drink tea; just make sure you moderate your intake.

Nephrologist Ramya Malchira from UCLA told Medline Plus:

“Two to three glasses [of tea] would be considered safe if you are not eating other oxalates. However, if someone were also eating high quantities of high-oxalate foods such as spinach, even two or three glasses could be too much.”

With a nation driving to create a healthier America, there’s an emerging trend of people who are obsessed with eating only what they deem as “pure” foods. It’s called orthorexia. While it may begin as a well-intentioned exercise in eating right, for some, it can evolve into a control issue. But the truth is that too much of anything can be bad; even too much water can kill you.

Read more about the perplexing account in The Atlantic and in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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