Arsenic in Rice? New Research Says Yes

By Emily Murray

It seems that nearly every day we learn of a new food to keep away from and today is no different. Researchers have found that levels of arsenic are higher in those who eat rice more frequently. We heard a very similar story in regards to arsenic levels in apple juice last week,  so what exactly does this mean for our health? That’s what we are trying to get to the bottom of…

The Study
The levels of arsenic in rice first came into question during a study made up of pregnant women. It was discovered that having just over a half cup of rice cooked a day is nearly equal to drinking one liter of water with the most arsenic allowed based on federal limitations  which is 10 parts per billion according to an article on the topic.

While water currently has these limits in place, there have never been limits put on rice before since it was not previously recognized as a significant source of arsenic.

As part of the study, these pregnant women were asked to track several things including their seafood and rice amounts from their diets. Additionally researchers were looking to see if the water these women were drinking had any impact on their arsenic levels as well. The results we somewhat surprising. As the researchers expected, when levels of arsenic from well water were tested in the women’s urine they were found to be high. Perhaps what they weren’t expecting however was that the levels from the women who had eaten rice were even higher.

So Where Does Arsenic Come From?
As humans, our main source of arsenic is from the food we eat. It is naturally in soil across the world but even though crops are grown in this soil, the plants most commonly do not leach this into themselves. Rice on the other hand is grown in flooded fields and therefore, what is absorbed is a bit different than the average plant crop.

Should we Abandon Rice Altogether?
For the most part, it appears that reports are not claiming we all need to worry just yet. In fact, the main purpose of releasing this information is to help the U.S. government and the FDA see the importance of having perhaps limitations put on the amount of arsenic that is allowed to be present in rice. For the most part, we don’t need to panic just yet. There are many cultures that consume far more rice than the U.S. and they have not reported any arsenic related health challenges as a result.