Africans, stop eating too much rice, it’s unhealthy! (Arsenic)

InformAfrica – Africans ought to stop eating too much rice which potentially contains high levels of Arsenic, a carcinogenic compound that increase the risk of lung, skin, and bladder cancer, among other lifelong health problems.

This informative article is intended to increase the awareness of both Africans in diaspora and Africans on the continent about arsenic poisoning or consumption – in a major food we eat, which is rice, a regular meal for most Africans. A recent study we discovered on ConsumerReports.org reveals some interesting facts and hazards about arsenic in rice (a cancer potential). So we’ve composed this article to share our discovery with you our readers. Read on…….

Bowl of White Rice
A bowl of white rice. Has lower levels of arsenic compared to brown rice which is higher.

Arsenic is a chemical element known to be both toxic and carcinogenic, and high concentration of arsenic is usually found in groundwater. Now, rice is grown in a groundwater environment, so the presence of arsenic in the soil can be readily transmitted to the rice that ends up in our pot.

Unlike other food crops grown in a groundwater environment, rice absorbs arsenic chemical from soil or groundwater much more effectively than most plants. That’s in part because it is one of the only major crops grown in water-flooded conditions, which allow arsenic to be more easily taken up by its roots and stored in the grains.

Though rice isn’t the only dietary source of arsenic—some vegetables, fruits, and even water can harbor the hazardous compound.

“Parents should not be serving rice cereal to their infants more than once a day on average. Infant cereals tested had low levels of arsenic compared to regular rice but because the body mass of the children is so much less, that’s why the advice is so stringent.” [And steer clear of brown rice syrup, used as a sweetener, which showed consistently high levels.]

Arsenic in Baby Food

A recent research conducted by Consumer Report discovered that some infant rice cereals, which are often a baby’s first solid food, had levels of inorganic arsenic at least five times more than has been found in alternatives such as oatmeal. Due to this findings, consumers are suggested to limit the consumption of rice products.

Arsenic is a toxic chemical that can cause brain damage, and African parents ought to be aware of this when picking up baby foods at the grocery store. There are several healthier alternative to infant rice cereals, certain easily digest-able fruits and vegetables will do just fine. (If any parents would like more information on healthy baby food alternatives, comment below or simply shoot us a mail at inquiry[at]informafrica.com, and our web research team will fetch you the needed information by researching the web. All at no cost to you).

The Consumer Report study was a snapshot of the rice product market in the US only, with many products purchased in the New York metropolitan area and online, to gauge the extent of arsenic’s presence in everyday foods. Below are some important trends discovered in the study:

  • White rice grown in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas, which account for 76 percent of domestic rice, generally had higher levels of total arsenic and inorganic arsenic in our tests than rice samples from elsewhere.
  • Within any single brand of rice we tested, the average total and inorganic arsenic levels were always higher for brown rice than for white.
  • People who ate rice had arsenic levels that were 44 percent greater than those who had not, according to our analysis of federal health data. And certain ethnic groups were more highly affected, including Mexicans, other Hispanics, and a broad category that includes Asians.
  • Reducing arsenic in food is feasible. We examined the efforts of two food companies, including Nature’s One, trying to tackle the problem and learned about methods being used to try to reduce arsenic in products.
  • Based on these findings, our experts are asking the Food and Drug Administration to set limits for arsenic in rice products and fruit juices as a starting point.

Arsenic carcinogen in Rice

So, eating rice once a day can increase arsenic levels in the body by up to 44 percent. The study by Consumer Report tested 200 samples of different rice products – from organic rice baby cereal and brown rice to rice crispies- and found alarmingly high levels of arsenic present. This has raised concern as inorganic arsenic is know to cause lung, skin and bladder cancers, as well as a host of other lifelong health problems.

The following infographic photo below visualizes how arsenic gets in rice and outlines some suggestions for what you can do to limit your intake. You can find the full report here. The chart directly below the infographic lists the rice and rice products tested and the levels of arsenic found.

Arsenic in rice: Africans should stop eating too much rice
Arsenic is a chemical element known to be both toxic and carcinogenic, and high concentration of arsenic is usually found in groundwater environment where rice is usually grown.

Remember that “Brown rice have much higher arsenic levels of arsenic compared to white rice, so the recommendation is to use brown rice sparingly and eat more white rice.”

[For brown or white rice]“…there are ways to reduce the arsenic levels. Consumers can wash the rice before they cook it and cook in extra water and then pour water off at the end of cooking. (This can remove about 30 percent of the arsenic). Consumer Reports recommends 6 cups of water to one cup of rice.”

Bowl of brown rice
A bowl of brown rice. Potentially has higher levels of arsenic compared to white rice.

For Africans living in the United States, InformAfrica gathered that “Rice grown in the Southeastern U.S. had the highest amount of arsenic, according to a study by Consumer Reports, which makes sense given that this is the land where cotton was grown and arsenic was used as a pesticide for decades to combat the boll weevil.

Depending on where the rice you buy is grown, it could contain higher or lower levels of arsenic chemical. Africans in America should consider buying California-grown rice because it has much lower levels of arsenic, the study by Consumer Report has found. And here’s one instance in which buying imported rice is better: Thai jasmine and Indian basmati rice had some — but much lower — levels of arsenic (about one-half to one-third the amount).”

The consumer report study only focused on rice grown in the United States, so this informative article about arsenic consumption via rice is more focused on increasing the awareness of Africans living in diaspora-America. However, Africans on the continent can also take certain precautions by finding out the type of environment where the rice they eat is grown because due to weathering conditions in some region, deposits of arsenic chemicals in the soil or groundwater, are much higher.

Not to forget, it is documented that 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.

In conclusion, arsenic is a chemical element known to be both toxic and carcinogenic, and high concentration of arsenic is usually found in groundwater environment where rice is usually grown. High arsenic levels in the human body increases the risk of lung, skin, and bladder cancer, among other lifelong health problems that develops over time.

Eating rice, especially too much of it, is also linked with weight gain, belly fat, diabetes, among other illness. Rice is nothing but sugar when digested, neither is it a good source of fiber (fibre). When rice is digested it becomes sugar and increases circulation of blood sugar within half an hour – almost as quickly as it would if one ate a sugar candy. But the main point of this article is to raise awareness on the dangers of eating too much rice due to its carcinogenic arsenic contents. Apart from arsenic found in rice, it is generally not a good or recommended source of nutrition. This is why Africans should stop eating too much rice, because it’s unhealthy.

By reducing cancer-causing foods we eat or decreasing our exposure to carcinogenic chemical compounds, we can definitely reduce the rate of cancer deaths occurring in Africa or among the African people around the world. -Kevin Onuma/InformAfrica

This food/health awareness article is filed under: Africa Information

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