Friday, January 28, 2011

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Bad News for Iced Tea Drinkers

The pain was so bad 
that once it felt 
like I was delivering a child 
made out of razor blades.

~ Mark Mulac, former iced tea drinker

I have said elsewhere how much I enjoy iced tea. If all the liquids I've consumed over my life were tallied, iced tea would dominate the list. More than beer, more than whiskey, more than soda (which I hardly drink anyway), and certainly more than plain water, I guzzle the stuff. Oh, I drink hot teas, too, but I can go a day without hot tea. Not iced.

Imagine my dismay when I read that plain ol' iced tea contains high concentrations of oxalate, a key chemical in the formation of kidney stones. In fact, John Milner, a urology instructor at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, says "For many people, iced tea is potentially one of the worst things they can drink."

Kidney stones are crystals that form in urinary tracts. Word is they're exquisitely painful. I've never been afflicted with any, but I do recall with horror a scene in the HBO series Deadwood in which the bestial Al Swearengen (played by Ian McShane) is laid low by gleets — another name for the things — and passes them. Warning: the clip t'aint for the squeamish.

Adding lemon juice to tea supposedly helps since its citrates inhibit the formation of stones in the first place. But damn. At more than a gallon per diem on hot days, I'm going to have to re-think my drinking habits.

Who knew it'd be iced tea I'd be reconsidering?

Goes well with:
  • Tea and Whiskey, including my standard recipe for making iced tea by making a preliminary concentrate. 
  • Nasty, an encounter with iced tea in San Diego that left me skeeved for days.


erik.ellestad said...

Do they mean commercial iced tea with all sorts of weird stuff in it?

Or is there something that happens when tea is chilled that causes it to have more oxalates?

Not really covered in the article.

Puzzled why just chilling tea would cause it to be worse for you.

Matthew Rowley said...

Erik ~ my suspicion is not that chilling the tea causes it to have more oxalates than the same quantity of hot tea. I don't quite see how that would happen.

Rather, the unaddressed issue seems more likely that iced tea drinkers tend to drink a greater volume of tea per diem than hot tea drinkers. On a blustery day, I'll have 3-5 cups of hot tea, but I'll guzzle easily twice that amount of iced on a normal day. Shoot, I'll drink that much at breakfast. Make it a hot day and I'll down even more.

This isn't addressed anywhere in the article, but it seems a reasonable assumption.

I'll look into it some more to see what the deal may be.

Matthew Rowley said...

Of course, I could be full of shit. That happened one time before.

erik.ellestad said...

Or I'll do it for you...

Low oxalate bioavailability from black tea

That may be good news for you!