I’d seen this story a while back, but ignored it. It is basically a “Scare Story” about arsenic in rice. Why ignore it? Well, I figured that people had been eating rice for thousands of years so maybe we were quite able to eat rice…
FDA tests find arsenic in rice
After detecting cancer-causing compound, agency vows to make further studies a priority
Many name-brand rice and rice products contain varying levels of carcinogenic arsenic, according to the results of separate sets of tests announced today by the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationand Consumer Reports.
Sure sounds scary, don’t it? “carcinogenic arsenic”. Further down, they even tell you just how much they are worried about. And in what foods. Seems rice, in particular, has their panties in a bunch. And “Oh Dear!” people feed rice to babies!!!
Currently, there is no federal maximum level for arsenic in food. The findings have led Consumer Reports and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to call on the FDA to set such limits, particularly in baby food, and to caution the public about eating large amounts of rice and feeding it to small children.
And it isn’t even regulated!!! How have we lived all these many centuries without government regulation of arsenic in rice?
FDA says its data, which found an average of 3.5 to 6.7 micrograms of inorganic arsenic in a single serving of rice or rice product, are consistent with the levels found in the Consumer Reports study.
The Consumer Reports data indicate that brown rice, which retains the outer bran, can carry higher levels of arsenic.
Oh, the horrors! 6 micrograms. And that Evil Brown Rice! (Never mind that all rice was ‘brown rice’ up until recent start of the industrial age when milling off the bran began…)
So what are we to do? Why, cut that rice out of the diet and cut it back to just tiny token amounts, says the “expert”:
In the wake of the new reports, some American pediatricians said they would alter their advice for parents feeding their children.
“I think a prudent position for the next few months or years until the FDA standards (on arsenic) come out is that parents avoid rice or at least avoid any rice that comes from Texas, Louisiana or Missouri and when in doubt go with barley or oatmeal,” Dr. Phillip Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital School of Medicine, said today on CBS’ “This Morning.”
Dr. Frank Greer, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics and its former committee chairman on nutrition, was a little more conservative in his advice, noting that “we don’t really know what the arsenic content of food really means at this point.”
Still, he said the new studies would lead him to modify advice to parents about feeding rice to kids. Consumer Reports suggests limiting servings to children to a little more than a quarter-cup of uncooked rice a week.
So what’s my ‘beef’ with that? How could I possibly be against regulating and demanding the removal of carcinogenic heavy metal toxins from our food supply? Chasing after something else I ran into an article about the need for arsenic in human metabolism and how it was just being figured out. So I thought:
Well…. maybe because clueless bureaucrats and wet-pants-doctors don’t know much about arsenic after all. Maybe because very few people really do. Maybe because it is, in fact, important to have some arsenic in your diet. (throughout the discussions you will see references to ‘inorganic arsenic’ and ‘organic arsenic’ and how one is more toxic than the other. In fact, you can metabolize inorganic into the organic bound form. So in small doses, one can become the other…)
Rats, chickens, minipigs and goats raised on low-arsenic diets (< 35 ng of arsenic/g) exhibited reduced growth rates during early life. In goats, the most closely investigated species, reproductive performance is also impaired, as a result of decreased conception rates, increased abortion frequency, greatly increased maternal mortality (especially during lactation) and reduced viability of newborn kids. Cardiomyopathy, associated with a derangement of cardiac mitochondrial structure, may be the cause. Several biochemical changes accompanying the signs of arsenic deficiency have been described, but the fundamental mode and site of action of the element are not yet known.
Seems that going all crazy paranoid and yanking arsenic out of the diet screws up a variety of animals, including birds and 3 kinds of mammals, and in particular screws up mothers and infants…
Sources and Intake
Most foods and feeds of terrestrial origin contain less than 1 ug of arsenic/gm dry weight; the levels present in those of marine origin are substantially higher, ranging up to 80 mcg/g. Dietary intake is therefore greatly influenced by the amount of seafood in the diet. Based on recent surveys in several countries, the daily arsenic intake of adults is estimated to be < 200 mcg, and often below 100 mcg/day. It is unlikely that the arsenic intake from uncontaminated diets poses a risk of toxicity. Extrapolation from animal experiments suggests that human adult intakes in the range 12-25 mcg/day are probably adequate to meet any possible requirement.
Golly. Not just 6 micrograms in a serving of rice, but 80 micrograms in a single GRAM of seafood! And I eat that stuff by the kilo! In many countries, folks eating 200 micrograms a day. Why that is the equivalent of about 33 bowls of rice!! /sarc…
It also looks like with “only” 2 to 4 bowls of rice per day you can get what is “probably adequate” levels to meet the possible dietary needs…
Because inorganic arsenic is known to be carcinogenic in humans, there is understandable concern to limit human exposure to excessive environmental concentrations of the element. However, the metabolism and effects of arsenic can differ markedly, depending on the chemical nature of the arsenic source; these differences partly account for the provisional nature of the recommended safe exposure limit for adults of 15 mcg/kg of body weight per week. Since experimental arsenic deficiency has been produced in four species, the element may have an essential function. If a human requirement for arsenic does exist, it is probably close to 20 mcg/day for adults and is easily met by most diets.
15 micrograms / kilogram? I’m about 100 kilos, so that’s 1500 micrograms. Or about 250 bowls of rice per week. I think I’m safe…
So what do they think arsenic might be doing?
Arsenic: A Sulfur amino acid metabolism effector?
Other reviews have described in detail the signs of arsenic deprivation in four animal species: chick, goat, rat, and miniature pig. In the goat, rat, and miniature pig the most consistent signs of arsenic deprivation have been depressed growth and abnormal reproduction characterized by impaired fertility and elevated perinatal mortality. Other signs of deprivation described for goats include depressed serum triglycerides and death during lactation. Myocardial damage, which in advanced stages included ruptured mitochondria, has also been found in arsenic-deficient lactating goats. Other responses to arsenic deprivation have been described. However, these responses have varied in nature and severity with variation in the dietary concentrations of a variety of substances including zinc, arginine, choline, methionine, and guanidoacetic acid. These substances are interrelated because they are effectors of methionine metabolism.
Additional findings have appeared recently which suggest that arsenic has a biological role that affects formation of various metabolites from methionine, including taurine and polyamines. For example, arsenic deprivation depressed the taurine concentration in plasma of hamsters. It also has been reported that arsenic deprivation depressed the concentrations of putrescine, spermidine, and spermine, and the activity of S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase in liver of rats fed diets containing marginal amounts of methionine. The transfer of an aminopropyl group from decarboxylated S-adenosylmethionine to putrescine and spermidine forms spermidine and spermine, respectively.
Some of the signs of arsenic deprivation described are harmonious with the suggestion that arsenic influences taurine function or effects. The myocardium has a very high taurine content, which changes in several pathophysiological conditions affecting the heart. The administration of taurine to patients suffering from congestive heart failure alleviated their physical signs and symptoms of this disorder. Cardiomyopathy associated with low plasma taurine has been reported to occur in cats fed a taurine-deficient diet. Taurine also apparently plays an important role in stabilization of cell membranes. Perhaps the ruptured mitochondrial membranes and damage found in arsenic-deprived goat hearts involved changes in myocardial taurine. A major source of taurine for growing animals is milk; taurine deficiency results in reduced growth and survival in kittens. An important physiologic function of taurine is bile acid conjugation necessary for lipid solubilization and absorption. These taurine findings could be related to the arsenic deprivation signs of perinatal mortality, depressed perinatal growth, and depressed serum triglycerides.
Although arsenic might affect gene expression through the polyamines, another possibility exists, that is, through histone methylation. It is believed the reaction by which inorganic arsenic is methylated by S-adenosylmethlonine exists mainly to facilitate the movement of arsenic through and out of the body in a nontoxic form, to detoxify inorganic arsenic. However, because nutrients that affect methyl group metabolism (e.g., guanidoacetic acid) affect the response to arsenic deprivation, arsenic may have an essential role in the labile methyl metabolism involving methionine.
Any possible nutritional requirement by humans can only be estimated by using data from animal studies. The arsenic requirement for growing chicks and rats has been suggested to be near 25 ng/g diet. A possible human arsenic requirement is 12 mcg/day. The reported arsenic content of diets from various parts of the world indicates that the average daily intake of arsenic is in the range of 12-40 mcg. Fish, grain and cereal products contribute the most arsenic to the diet.
In other words, it is needed for some key aspects of how our machinery operates, but only in small amounts. We have pathways to detoxify the inorganic form and turn it into the functional organic form (for modest amounts). And we can likely get all we need from ordinary diets. Say those with rice and seafood in them…
Nearer the top of that article was some interesting information that makes it look like other species need more arsenic than mammals, but that during the development of a baby more is needed (as the mother raises the blood levels – a common thing in pregnancy for needed nutrients.)
As – Arsenic is found in igneous rock at 1.0 to 8.0 ppm; shale at 13.0 ppm; sandstone and limestone at 1.0 ppm; fresh water at 0.0004 ppm; sea water at 0.003ppm; soils at 6.0 *ppm (Argentina and New Zealand have toxic high arsenic soils in some regions); marine plants 30.O ppm; land plants 0.2 ppm; marine animals 0.005 to 0.3ppm (accumulated by coelenterates, mollusca and crustaceans; land animals < 0.2 ppm (concentrates in hair and nails). essential for survivability of newborn and neonatal growth.
Arsenic metabolism is affected by tissue and blood levels of zinc, selenium, arginine, choline, methionine, taurine and guaniacetic acid, all of which affect methyl-group metabolism and polyamine synthesis which is the site of arsenic function in human physiology.
Arsenic promotes the growth rate of chicks at 90 to 120 ppms. The rate of growth and metamorphosis of tadpoles is enhanced by the presence of arsenic.
The French Academy first identified arsenic in dead human bodies in 1834. Arsenic normally appears in female human blood at 0.64 ppm, it rises to 0.93 PPM during menstruation and 2.20 ppm during months five and six of pregnancy.
So it looks like biological demand for arsenic is especially high in the developing baby…
I need some idiot mandating arsenic be removed from my food and to not feed healthy and needed levels of an essential nutrient to my kids because… why again?
And folks wonder why I eat natural foods, don’t care that things “meet government standards”, and want busybodies out of my life and to take their hands off my dinner plate…
I’m quite happy just looking at the historical health and well being of folks eating diets high in brown rice and fish and figure maybe, just maybe, nature has worked all this out already.
I’m also quite sure that most doctors have little clue at all about what is, and is not, a needed micro-nutrient or trace element. These same folks that shove Tylenol / acetaminophen at folks like chocolates (leading to it being the largest cause of liver transplants and possible co-factor in Autism) are now also jumping to conclusions and saying not to eat a food that gives the needed level of an essential mineral. And especially to deny it to children who look to have the largest biological demand. Now you know why I’m prone to caution when dealing with any “advice” from doctors.
OK, eat your brown rice and seafood and tell the Arsenic Police to go find someone else to panic.