Arsenic and Old Rice
Whole grains are an important part of a healthy diet. Whole grain oats are so good at lowering cholesterol and reducing one’s risk of heart disease, for example, that they’re one of the few foods approved by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration to make such a claim in writing.
Whole grains provide dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and complex carbohydrates. Many people are opting to avoid gluten these days, which means avoiding wheat, barley and rye. So whole grains like brown rice have become even more important components of a well rounded, plant-based diet.
Brown rice is hulled, whole grain rice. In contrast, white rice is made by removing the outer bran and germ layers from brown rice. This is often followed by mechanical polishing, which removes even more nutrients. What remains are essentially simple carbohydrates, and little else. In the process, rice loses virtually all of its healthful fiber, and some of its most important nutrients, including the essential nutrient, vitamin B1 (thiamine). Lack of thiamine in the diet can cause the nervous system disorder, beriberi. Switching from white rice to brown is a simple cure for this awful wasting disease.
But brown rice has been linked to arsenic recently. Consumer Reports, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, published data that shows arsenic is present in a troubling array of widely available products, including domestically grown rice. The culprit is usually brown rice, or brown rice syrup, a sweetener that’s a supposedly healthier alternative to high-fructose corn syrup. But even white rice, from southern states where arsenic-laden pesticides are common, has been identified as problematic. More on this issue tomorrow.
Food and Drug Administration, HHS. Food labeling: health claims; soluble dietary fiber from certain foods and coronary heart disease. Interim final rule. Fed Regist. 2002 Oct 2;67(191):61773-83.