Arsenic in Rice — An Alternative Approach!

You may remember back in February we posted an article about Arsenic in Rice.  At the time, it was the most widely read article on this blog with searches coming in from all over the internet.

Of course, this was very impactful to the Gluten Free Vegan community as we tend to consume lots of rice.  Well, thankfully, there are studies going on that are looking that this problem and looking for solutions.

One of my favorite doctors on the subject is Dr Vikki Petersen with the Health Now Medical Center in California.  She recently published an article on Arsenic in Rice:  A Clinical Nutrition Report.  Here are some of her comments:

Just when you think you’ve found a great food, someone has to go and rain on your parade. …

Rice is grown in water and the grain has a high affinity for arsenic found in water. It’s just a characteristic of the grain. …

Is arsenic bad for you? In high amounts it definitely is toxic and according to the FDA, long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic is associated with increased rates of skin, bladder and lung cancers, as well as heart disease. In children, high levels are known to lower IQ and hinder intellectual function. Do notice the bold above –” long term exposure to high amounts”. That is what needs to be determined. Does the amount of rice that you or your family is consuming equate itself to high amounts that will have an adverse effect on your health? Or, an equally important question: Are the small amounts that are being ingested enough to accumulate in the body over time to create health problems? …

There are some things you can do to lessen your exposure to arsenic while still enjoying your rice.

  1. Find out where the rice is grown. Rice hailing from Thailand (Thai jasmine) and India (Indian basmati) had some of the lowest levels found – ½ to 1/3 of the amount of American rice. Within the US, the southeastern states grow, unfortunately, rice with some of the highest amounts of arsenic.  … Rice grown in California is a much better bet due to not having arsenic-laden soil.
  2. Unfortunately, the nutrient laden brown rice has higher arsenic levels than its white counterpart. The polishing process that white rice undergoes removes the surface layer, or bran, of the grain providing a reduction in the arsenic level. One report cited the bran to have 10 to 20 times higher amounts of arsenic than the remaining grain. …
  3. Happily, one nice fix is quite easily accomplished. Wash the rice before cooking it and then cook it in extra water (4:1 or 6:1 ratio)– pour this water off before serving. According to Consumer Reports this process can remove about 30% of the arsenic. Yay!
  4. Variety is the spice of life. Just the way I encourage my patients to eat a broad array of fruits and vegetables, so too should you consume variety in your grains. …
  5. Organic rice vs. inorganic? While you would hope that organic would provide some benefit, that has not necessarily been found to be the case as regards arsenic levels. …
  6. Lastly, young infants and children are likely more at risk than adults. Why? The detoxification pathways by which the adult body rids itself of arsenic are not developed adequately to perform that function in young children. …

Dr. Vikki sites some interesting facts and ways to still enjoy rice.

I appreciate her comment “Variety is the spice of life. Just the way I encourage my patients to eat a broad array of fruits and vegetables, so too should you consume variety in your grains.”

Exactly the way I approach these types of issues.  So many of the reports that come out are really slanted to drive fear into the consumer.   If a particular product is a problem, just don’t eat it often!  (Of course, I am not talking about food allergens — they have to be completely avoided).

What are your thoughts?

 

 

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