Infants who ate rice, rice products had higher urinary concentrations of arsenic

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                              Analyst F. Perry Wilson MD MSCE

By comparison, all samples of non-rice baby foods were found to be well below the FDA's action level for arsenic.

When parents first introduce solid foods to their babies, rice products are typically among the first foods offered. At 12 months, dietary patterns during the past week were assessed, including whether the infant had eaten rice cereal, white or brown rice, or foods either made with rice, such as rice-based snacks, or sweetened with brown rice syrup, such as some brands of cereal bars. Arsenic levels were particularly high in babies who had eaten rice cereal.

80 percent of the 759 infants were introduced to rice cereal in the first year of life with most (64 percent) starting at 4 to 6 months of age.

"U.S.-grown rice has some of the highest reported arsenic concentrations in the world", Karagas said.

Of the infants who donated urine samples, 55 percent had consumed some type of rice product in the prior two days, the study found.

Researchers also found that babies who are fed with rice products have higher arsenic concentrations of arsenic in their urine compared to infants who aren't fed with rice.

And in this case, brown and wild rice are the worst offenders, because the bleaching process used to create white rice removes the outer hull, where much of the arsenic concentrates.

A new study reveals that babies who were fed by rice cereal and other rice-based snacks had an increased level of arsenic in their urine compared with babies who were not fed rice.

"In addition to being more highly exposed to As [arsenic], children appear to be far more sensitive to the potential carcinogenic effects of As, and have a heightened risk for adverse growth, adverse immune response and adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes, even at relatively low levels of exposure".

Studies suggest that inorganic arsenic may have neurotoxic effects and can be very harmful to the immune system. While the researchers controlled for water and fish consumption, "they did not not talk about control for baby formula, and that in itself is problematic", she said. "Inorganic arsenic exposure has been linked to cancer as well as other health problems such as neurological, cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic diseases", said one of the doctors from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Conclusions and Relevance Our findings indicate that intake of rice cereal and other rice-containing foods, such as rice snacks, contribute to infants' As exposure and suggest that efforts should be made to reduce As exposure during this critical phase of development.

Arsenic exposure from rice is a concern for infants and children.

The agency's stance also stems from their own testing of 76 samples of infant rice cereals obtained from various retail stores.

Doctors tend to recommend that parents feed their child rice as they move to solid foods since this grain is easier to digest. Lastly, the study doesn't account for other common sources of arsenic such as apple juice, which could also elevate urinary arsenic levels.



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