Cooking rice – researchers develop method that removes arsenic

Rice contains traces of arsenic in its marginal layers. Researchers have now developed a special cooking method that can be used to remove much of the contaminant. Photo: iStock

From FITBOOK | 06. November 2020, 1:18 pm

In itself, rice is a healthy food. But in addition to many important nutrients, the grains also contain traces of arsenic. This substance is considered to be highly hazardous to health. Researchers at the University of Sheffield in England have now developed a special method for removing arsenic from rice during cooking, at least to a large extent.

Rice may contain arsenic. This substance is found in soil or groundwater and enters rice grains through the roots of the plant. It is considered to be carcinogenic as well as vascular damaging and is thus highly hazardous to health

Acute arsenic poisoning is first noticed by abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, severe diarrhea and facial edema. Chronic ingestion of small amounts of arsenic over a long period of time can lead to skin changes, vascular damage, and death- and nerve damage and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Using a special cooking method to remove arsenic from rice

Because the element accumulates primarily in the marginal layers of the grain, brown rice and parboiled rice often contain greater amounts of arsenic than white rice. However, studies have shown that the arsenic content can be reduced by using the right cooking method. For one thing, this can be done by washing the rice in plenty of water, cooking it and then draining off the excess cooking water.

Instead of washing, however, a special cooking method can be used, which researchers from the University of Sheffield in England have now published in the scientific journal "Science of The Total Environment" presented. In a study, the team of the Institute for Sustainable Food had found that basmati rice contains found that the so-called "Parboiling with Absorption Method" can be used to remove arsenic from rice (PBA) was able to remove the most arsenic from rice without reducing the micronutrients it contained.

The PBA method works as follows:

  1. Bring water to a boil (4 cups of water per 1 cup of rice)
  2. Add rice and cook for 5 minutes
  3. Pour off the water afterwards, but leave the rice in the pot
  4. Add fresh water to the pot (now 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of rice)
  5. Continue cooking rice on low to medium heat with a lid until the water is completely absorbed

In this way, more than 50 percent of the naturally occurring arsenic in brown rice and 74 percent in white rice is said to be removed.

Öco-test: 12 out of 21 rice varieties contain a worrying amount of arsenic

The consumer magazineoko-Test tested the extent to which conventional rice from the supermarket is actually contaminated with arsenic. Seven different types of parboiled long grain, basmati and whole grain rice were closely examined. The test results published in the July 2020 issue are alarming: arsenic was detected in all 21 products tested by the laboratory. While in the Basmatireis the load with the krebserregenden substance turned out rather small, this looked less pleasing with nature and Parboiled long grain rice. „We found arsenic in all 21 products, carcinogenic arsenic", says Kerstin Scheidecker from Stiftungoko-Test to "MDR". In many products there were only small traces, but in some there were alarmingly high levels. Overall, she speaks of a "disturbing result".

The fact that basmati rice generally has a lower arsenic content is, incidentally, due to the fact that it is husked rice. This is because pollutants and pesticides, as well as vitamins and minerals, accumulate mainly in the husk of the rice grain. Whole grain rice is therefore much more susceptible to contaminant exposure.

Arsenic in rice could exceed 50.000 preventable deaths

The fact that arsenic is very harmful to health is also supported by a recent study by the University of Manchester, which was published in the journal "Science of The Total Environment" was published.

Scientists found a link between deaths from cardiovascular disease and rice consumption in people in England and Wales. Thus, those who were among the 25 percent of people with the highest rice consumption were six percent more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who fell among the 25 percent with the lowest rice consumption.

According to a recent estimate by researchers, the toxic arsenic in rice could boost more than 50.Cause 000 preventable premature deaths per year.

How much rice should you eat?

Consumers should always alternate meals containing rice with rice-free meals, advises the Bavarian Consumer Advice Center. This is especially true for infants and young children who eat a lot of rice over porridge or waffles.

But you don’t have to go completely without rice. „Rice is a valuable food that contains numerous important nutrients such as protein, Contains vitamins, minerals and fiber. Rice should therefore continue to be part of a balanced diet", The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment already explained in a publication from August 2015.

However, the BfR warns: "No safe intake level can be defined for the carcinogenic, i.e. cancer-causing, effect of inorganic arsenic. Health risks in terms of potentially increasing the risk of cancer from ingesting inorganic arsenic due to eating rice and rice products are therefore possible.“

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