Escaping Arsenic

Escaping Arsenic

Escaping Arsenic

arsenic detox So you want to get healthy… You may have just read the book Wheat Belly or the newest diet books that tell you how to lose seven pounds in seven days by removing seven allergens from your diet (including wheat, corn and soy). You may have even gone to your Naturopathic physician who gave you an allergy blood test and told you that you are allergic to gluten (wheat). What is there left to eat?

Off to the supermarket you go after your diagnosis and low and behold you find several aisles of gluten free items! You tell yourself that getting healthy will not be so bad. For breakfast there are ten choices of rice breakfast cereals, there are even frozen rice based pancakes and waffles. For snacks there are energy bars with brown rice syrup (you are thinking that is so much better for you than high fructose corn syrup). You even find a “super food” touting rice bran as its main ingredient. For lunch there are several types of rice breads for those sandwiches, and dinner can be bowl of brown rice with some protein. You think what could be healthier? You then go online looking for more rice recipes, but instead you find headlines publicizing ARSENIC in rice. What in the world does this mean?

Ironically it is true, eating “healthier” rice does increase your exposure to the poison, arsenic. A study from Consumer Report published in November 2012 suggested measurable levels (enough to be of concern for the experts in the field of toxicology) of both inorganic (the most dangerous type) and organic arsenic in many rice based foods - including rice baby cereal, rice breakfast cereals, rice flour and energy bars. It was followed by a preliminary study done by the FDA of 200 rice products, which basically confirmed the Consumer Report findings. A more detailed study is on going with the results to be published soon. This is not the first time that arsenic was discovered in our food supply, especially rice. A Google search can easily bring up many more studies. The problem is determining if this is actually dangerous to you or I.. or should we even care?

If you have limited your diet to “gluten” free baked goods and brown rice (for health or allergy reasons) maybe you should care! The reason that it is potentially dangerous is that the U.S. Environmental Protection agency (EPA) states that exposure to “high levels of arsenic can raise risk of both cancer (especially skin, bladder and lung) and heart disease and in children may even lower their IQ and intellectual functioning.

The real problem is that no one seems to know if accumulation of small amounts of arsenic from rice or other foods over time will lead to any long-term health consequences. The EPA has determined the upper limit of safety for arsenic in drinking water to be 10 parts per billion (PPB). The actual levels found in the Consumer Report study on rice products were higher than that (between 7-128 PPB), but according to the FDA food and water can not be measured in the same way because water can be consumed all day long while food is eaten on an intermittent basis.

The problem remains that the FDA cannot tell you the consumer, what is safe and what is harmful until they determine a safe level of exposure to inorganic arsenic, which they have yet to do. To be fair, the FDA states emphatically that they are unaware of any acute health risks associated with the consumption of rice in children or adults at the present time.

heavy metal detox So where in the world does arsenic come from and why are rice products affected? And more importantly what can you do about it now? Arsenic actually occurs naturally in both our soil and water but it also comes from pesticides and fertilizers used many years ago. The reason rice is singled out more so than any other crop is that it is grown in water and absorbs arsenic from the soil and water more effectively than other plants.

Areas in the United States where cotton was grown and certain pesticides were used have a higher arsenic content in their soil. Rice grown in states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Texas have been determined to have higher arsenic while California has the least. Professor Andrew Mehang from Aberdeen University in Scotland, a world expert on arsenic, states that arsenic levels in soils can vary five fold with rice from India, Pakistan, Thailand, China and Egypt being the lowest and the United States, Europe (especially France and Italy) and Bangladesh rice being the highest. So if you are worried about the Chinese population with their high rice diet, don’t be. The Chinese actually have a low level of arsenic intake because they have one of the best arsenic controls for rice of any country.

According to Dr. Mehang the first thing to do to protect yourself from arsenic in rice is to determine where your rice came from. He suggest rice from India and Egypt had the lowest levels with basmati rice being the best type. In matter of fact, choose aromatic rice such as Indian Basmati or Thai Jasmine rice as your first choice. They have been shown to have about one half to one eighth the level of arsenic as regular rice grown in the Southern U.S. If U.S. rice is the only one you can find – buy rice from California.

Other things you can do to protect yourself from too much arsenic is to rinse your rice thoroughly. The FDA recommends rinsing rice until the water is clear (4-6 changes of water). This reduces the arsenic level about 25%. They also say you should cook and drain your rice like pasta. Cook your rice in six parts water to one part rice and drain the water off when done. This reduces the arsenic level up to 50%!

The FDA also advises us to eat a “varied diet”. They specifically say to eat a well balanced diet, which includes a wide variety of grains. Now for those of you restricting wheat/gluten it is time to discover the pleasure of the newest grains in the supermarket aisle such as amaranth and quinoa. If they do not agree with you, sweet potatoes, taro and squashes are hypoallergenic and good carbohydrate sources. In addition, until the FDA establishes a maximum safe level of arsenic in foods I would follow the recommendations from the Consumer Report scientists that specifically state that children should avoid rice milk for now and limit their rice consumption to once a week. For adults, their recommendations are not as stringent and include no more than three servings of rice products (think rice cakes) per week and no more than two servings of rice per week.

While getting healthy may sound like a headache, it is still possible even if arsenic lurks in potentially healthy foods.

- , CEO, Wise Choice Health, Inc

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