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Be Aware Of Concerns Over Arsenic Levels In Rice

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you know I’m not much of fear monger or someone who routinely dishes up scare tactics on food.

There are those who actually look for any shred of research they can find to promote their belief that some vilified food causes health problems.

That’s just not my thing…

Sure, there are some foods that have an increased likelihood of allergen or irritant effects, but in general I’m a promoter of balance in the diet. To each his own and you’ve simply got to find what works best for you.

However, I will say this…we’ve got to accept the reality that our world is a changing, and now more than ever we need to be conscious of where we get our food and how it was grown.

Concerns over things like genetically modified foods, contamination, xenoestrogens, and the such are legitimate to say the least.

One issue that recently caught my attention is the concern over arsenic levels in rice products.

More after the jump…

Just last week while on a short family vacation my father informed me that my best friend’s mother back home had gotten ill with a serious bought of food poisoning.

Turns out the doctors came to a conclusion this may have been caused by high levels of arsenic in her system. I was like “what…arsenic, how in the world does that happen?”

Speculation is this may be the result of exposure from consuming rice. She’s a vegetarian so this is somewhat of a staple in her diet. Now I’m not saying you need to run home and throw out all the rice, but it appears this may be a real concern we just haven’t heard much about yet.

Interestingly, when I returned to work this week I read an article in my RSS feeds on this very subject.

Consumer Reports just recently released a study where they analyzed more than 200 samples of rice and rice containing products like infant cereals and found “worrisome” levels of aresnic.

Here’s a quote from the Consumer Reports release.

“The U.S. is the world’s leading user of arsenic, and since 1910 about 1.6 million tons have been used for agricultural and industrial purposes, about half of it only since the mid-1960s.

Residues from the decades of use of lead-arsenate insecticides linger in agricultural soil today, even though their use was banned in the 1980s. Other arsenical ingredients in animal feed to prevent disease and promote growth are still permitted. Moreover, fertilizer made from poultry waste can contaminate crops with inorganic arsenic.” Go to source.

Why rice is especially vulnerable to arsenic contamination…

As you know rice is grown submerged in water, this means the arsenic is more easily absorbed into its root and plant system. The exposure is increased compared to wheat and other grains.

On a side note, brown rice contains more arsenic than white rice because the arsenic is concentrated in the bran and the hull of the rice, these parts are polished off with white rice.

I don’t necessarily think this all of sudden makes white rice a better choice in the diet, but it is what it is.

The reality is our food sources are most definitely impacted by the agricultural techniques not only used now, but those which have been used for the past several decades. Run off and contamination from fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals is part of the world we live in.

What in the heck is a person to do? You could try and grow your rice, but I don’t think flooding your back yard is all that good of an idea. It will get the neighbors talking though.

Seriously though, I think it just makes sense to pay some attention to where you buy your food and how to treat it before eating it.

Possible ways to limit exposure to arsenic in rice?

One of the simplest and easy things to do would be to full rinse rice thoroughly in water before cooking. Some research has shown that by rinsing and using more water, up to 30% of the rice’s inorganic arsenic may be removed.

Personally, I think this is a good idea to do with everything. I thoroughly wash and rinse all my fruits and vegetables for example. A little bit of white cider vinegar mixed with water is a good soaking agent.

My conclusions…should we give up rice completely?

I’ll admit that rice is one of the few grains that I do regularly consume. I like it as a starch carbohydrate because it’s relatively low in phytic acid, the anti-nutrient that blocks mineral absorption in the gut. It’s also gluten-free so that’s a big plus in my book.

I’m not ready to give up on it completely, but I will certainly look to wash and rinse, where I didn’t do that before. It’s something I typically only have a few times a week so perhaps looking for organic sources may be worth the effort.

I will say this, if you have a baby or small children I’d be far more cautious as obviously an adult’s system could handle small amounts of exposure much better.

Take it for what it’s worth. Just wanted to let everyone know about this issue that’s not getting a ton of press in the mainstream media.

Talk soon- Shane

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. He specializes in helping people achieve a body transformation with burst training exercise and whole food nutrition. You can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal fitness programs and start experiencing the Shaping Concepts difference today.

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Category: Nutrition.