Gluten free diets have become increasingly popular in America, but unfortunately, it sounds like they may harbor some awfully nasty substances: arsenic, and mercury.
Here’s the story:
This study was done by epidemiologists at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Maria Argos, assistant professor of epidemiology at the UIC’s School of Public Health, and her team looked at data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They examined 73 subjects who were eating gluten-free diets and they measured the amount of arsenic in their urine and mercury in their blood. These people were six to 80 years of age.
Here’s what the researchers found: Compared to the non-gluten-free controls, those eating gluten-free diets had twice as high levels of arsenic in their urine, and the gluten-free subjects had 70% more mercury in their blood.
The backstory on this is, as I mentioned, is that gluten-free diets are increasingly popular.
About 25% of Americans now admit to being on a gluten-free diet – that’s a 67% increase between 2013 and 2015. Interestingly enough, only 1% of Americans have Celiac disease and actually must pursue a gluten-free diet.
- Hollis Johnson
The excess arsenic and mercury found in subjects eating a gluten-free diet seems to originate in rice flour. Studies have shown that rice accumulates these toxic metals from fertilizers, pesticides, the soil, the rocks and the water from which it is grown.
Although it is a deadly poison in huge quantities, arsenic in small quantities can still increase the risk of bladder, lung, and skin cancers, as well as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Mercury, on the other hand, produces neurological, psychological, and hearing issues.
My two cents: You should minimize the ingestion of rice products. In particular, keep the amount of rice product ingestion down for children: a maximum of one serving of rice pasta, and avoid rice milk altogether for kiddies.
How to limit the arsenic in your rice
- Flickr / Larry
Now, white rice seems to have fewer of these impurities, including arsenic and mercury, compared to brown rice, because the impurities are contained within the rice’s brown coating, which is eliminated by washing and bleaching the rice. Brown rice contains about 30-80% more arsenic on average. The safest rice of all is white basmati rice from California, India, or Pakistan.
Also, by cooking rice in an abundance of water, you can get rid of some of these impurities. But some of the best ways of avoiding the exposure to arsenic and mercury is, frankly, to use alternative grains often – quinoa, amaranth, corn, buckwheat, or millet – or simply not use grains at all, to just eat fruits and vegetables.
How to limit your mercury intake
- Reuters/Thomas Peter
Mercury, on the other hand, is contained in seafood, so you want to avoid an abundance of swordfish, shark, ahi tuna, marlin, orange roughy, or tilefish.
- Reuters/Thomas Peter
So, a gluten-free diet can be wonderful for those with Celiac disease, but be careful about the potential exposure to arsenic and mercury. Thankfully, you can avoid those things.
For more on this study, take a listen to <a href=”http://drhowardsmith.libsyn.com/gluten-free-diets-can-poison-you”target=”_blank”>this podcast episode</a> or watch the video below.