Brown rice contains more arsenic than white rice, but the arsenic in brown rice is less absorbable. So how does it wash out when comparing the arsenic levels in the urine of white rice eaters with brown rice eaters?
Arsenic in rice is a cause for concern, according to a consensus statement by the European and North American Societies for Pediatric Nutrition. At least: “In areas of the world where rice consumption is high in all age groups, authorities should be asked to indicate what rice is available [types] have the lowest arsenic levels and are therefore the least harmful for infancy and childhood use. “In my video, I examine the arsenic content of various rice varieties Which rice has less arsenic: black, brown, red, white or game?.
Extensive testing recently conducted by the FDA found that long grain white rice, which most people eat, appears to have more arsenic than medium or short grain rice. However, this may be because most of the shorter grains are made in California, which is significantly less contaminated rice fields than in the south, such as in Texas or Arkansas, where most of the long-grain rice is grown. So it’s less long grain than short grain than white rice versus brown rice because the median concentration of inorganic arsenic in parts per billion long grain white rice is 102.0 and 156.5 in short, medium, and long grain brown rice as you can see at 0:54 in mine Video.
What about some naturally pigmented varieties like red or black rice that may even be healthier than brown? As you can see in mine at 1:08 Videothey may contain even less arsenic than white rice. A sample of black rice from China bought in Kuwait had higher levels of total arsenic, so the toxic inorganic content may be half that of US brown rice. Even more extraordinary was the red rice sample from the study from Sri Lanka with less than a fifth of the arsenic in Chinese black rice. However, the red rice sample from Sri Lanka had a ridiculously high amount of cadmium, apparently due to the cadmium content of widely used fertilizers from Sri Lanka.
Colored rice samples bought primarily in the US were better than brown or white, and a dozen samples of red rice bought in Europe were as bad or even worse than brown rice. I was hoping that wild rice would contain little or no arsenic as it is a completely different plant, but an average of eight samples showed it to be close to white, even though the wild rice samples contained only half as much toxic arsenic as brown Rice.
As you can see in mine at 2:06 am VideoThe arsenic found in a daily serving of white rice is 136 times the acceptable risk of cancer, but brown rice is even more risky at 162. Brown rice is on average two-thirds more toxic than white rice. But is that just because brown rice is a different variety or is grown in different places? No. If you take the exact same batch of brown rice and measure the arsenic levels before and after polishing on white, the arsenic levels will drop significantly.
However, it is not what you eat. It is what you absorb. The arsenic in brown rice appears to be less bioavailable than the arsenic in white rice. The texture of brown rice may reduce the release of arsenic from the grain, or maybe the bran in brown rice helps bind it. Regardless, taking bioavailability into account, the difference in arsenic levels in white versus brown rice can be a third more, rather than 70 percent more as you can see at 2:57 in mine Video. However, that estimate was based on an in vitro gastrointestinal fluid system in which researchers lined up beakers and tubes to mimic our intestines, with one flask holding gastric acid and another holding intestinal juice. What happened when it was tested on humans? Yes, “evidence suggests that brown rice may have more arsenic than white rice,” but the researchers wanted to find out how much is actually absorbed by measuring the urine levels of arsenic in white rice eaters compared to brown rice eaters. In order for the arsenic from rice to get into your bladder, it must be absorbed into the bloodstream through your intestines.
As you can see in mine at 3:45 VideoThe urine of thousands of American test subjects who did not eat rice at all still contains about 8 micrograms of toxic, carcinogenic arsenic per day. It’s in the air, in the water, and there’s a little in almost all food. However, if you only eat one food – a cup or more of white rice a day – your arsenic exposure increases by 65 percent to around 13 micrograms per day.
What about those who eat a cup or more of brown rice every day, which technically contains even more arsenic? Your exposure increases by the same 65 percent. There is no difference between the arsenic levels in the urine of white rice eaters compared to brown rice eaters. However, this wasn’t an interventional study where people were fed the same amount of rice to see what happened, which would have been ideal. Instead, it was a population study. Perhaps the reason for this is that white rice eaters eat more rice than brown rice eaters. Could that be why they had the same levels? We don’t know, but it should help calm the brown rice eaters’ minds. But would it be better not to eat rice at all? I’ll explore that in my next blog.
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Michael Greger, MD
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