Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kidney Stones and Iced Tea: The Odd Couple

Loyola University is cautioning us that with today's big emphasis on "energy drinks," there are potential problems ahead for those who get hooked on the caffeine and flavor of Iced Tea in the summertime. It turns out that if you are the kind of person who gets kidney stones, Iced Tea is one of the worst beverages you can consume.

Researchers at Loyiola point to Mark Mulac as an example; Mark was once an "avid lover" of iced tea, downing up to six glasses a day of the popular summertime thirst-quencher. "I was a junkie on a bender. I had to have it every day," said Mulac, a resident of Brookfield, Ill. "Iced tea was very refreshing, cheap to buy and easy to make."

Unfortunately, Mulac has recently been forced to go cold turkey. Iced tea helped to bring on an excruciating bout of kidney stones that led to surgery at Loyola University Hospital in Maywood, Ill. For Mark, the pain was so bad that "it felt like I was delivering a child made out of razor blades," said the 46-year-old Mulac. "I really had no idea that iced tea could lead to that."

Iced tea contains high concentrations of oxalate, one of the key chemicals that lead to the formation of kidney stones, a common disorder of the urinary tract that affects about 10 percent of the population in the United States.

Dr. John Milner, of Loyola's department of urology (Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Ill) confirms that this is a bad decision for many people. ""For many people, iced tea is potentially one of the worst things they can drink; but for people who have a tendency to form kidney stones, it's definitely one of the worst things you can drink."

Kidney stones are crystals that form in the kidneys or ureters, the small tubes that drain the urine from the kidney to the bladder. Men are four times more likely to develop kidney stones than women, and their risk rises dramatically once they reach their 40s. The most common cause of kidney stones is the failure to drink enough fluids. During the summer, people are generally more dehydrated due to sweating. The dehydration combined with increase iced tea consumption raises the risk of kidney stones, especially in people who are prone to develop them.

"People are told that in the summertime they should drink more fluids," said Milner, "but with kidney stones, they’re getting it going and coming. They're actually doing themselves a disservice."

The popularity of iced tea has grown dramatically with a whopping 1.91 billon gallons consumed a year in the U.S., according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Nearly 128 Americans drink the beverage daily.

Much of iced tea's appeal is due to the belief that it is healthier than other beverages such as soda and beer. Another myth busted! Lemonade, on the other hand, is known by the doctors at Loyola to be a healthy drink for those with kidney stones.


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