While eating habits in humans vary drastically based on their habitat and ethnicity, rice continues to be a main ingredient for meals in many countries of the world. While people staying in the Asian countries are known to be regular rice eaters, it is also eaten by millions of women and men in many other countries. While it does have some nutritional benefits, recent studies point out at potential health hazards of eating rice regularly, in certain parts of the world. The study findings may seem worrisome as it indicates at risk of chromosome level damage.
The dangers of rice eating as indicated by the researchers are owing to the increasing concentration of arsenic in rice harvesting regions in any parts of the world. The scientists of University of Manchester joined hands with CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology scientists carried out a study. They showed a link between arsenic present in rice and chromosomal damage. The damage to chromosome may pave way for onset of cancer.
The study can be found in Scientific Reports of the Nature Publishing Group. They tested urine samples collected from volunteers for this study. The researchers got funding from UK India Education and Research Initiative. They chose to carry out the study on a population that was not affected by other sources of arsenic poisoning such as drinking water. The researchers showed that women and men are exposed to greater risk of genetic damage with increasing exposure to arsenic through rice eating. It affects both tobacco users and non smokers alike. They also examined the sample of rice cooked by study volunteers for this study.
The pattern found by the scientists was similar to the pattern that was observed earlier in people exposed to arsenic through water. It is quite well known that arsenic consumed through drinking water may lead to cancer and severe health damage, as it has been established. While health experts may argue that the study findings may not be relevant to the countries where rice is not a staple in meals, it still cannot be overlooked.
Manchester University’s School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences Professor David Polya said Worries about arsenic in rice and impact on human health have been expressed earlier. However, this type of study sowing link between arsenic consumption and genetic harm is possibly the first. The study corroborates concerns expressed by entities like European Food Safety Authority.The research team in India was led by Dr Ashok K Giri. He said high concentration of arsenic in rice is dangerous but that does not mean you should stop eating rice immediately. The harm is done when long term continual exposure is present. The positive aspect is that a CSIR institute in India has already said which rice variants are relatively free of arsenic and those can be consumed without many problems.
The researchers estimated that the risk of chromosomal damage is there when the amount of arsenic per kilogram is above the limit of 200 mg. However, the study did not have option to monitor health of the volunteers. The risk is for those men and women who eat more than 500 grams of rice every day. It remains to be seen what the effect on people who eat less amounts of rice per day is say the researchers. The countries where the amount of arsenic in rice is found in more than the permissible limit are Bangladesh, China, Japan, India, Pakistan and parts of Europe.
The study findings have made sensation in health community as one can understand. Parvez Haris, Leicester’s De Montfort University’s scientist said it does not mean people should stop eating rice anytime soon. He was not involved with his study. He said that his team analyzed a number of aromatic rice variants from Bangladesh and found them to contain arsenic in low amounts that cannot do damage to human health. The consumers may be at the receiving end especially when there is lack of solid and globally accepted norms of regulation and labeling. The buyers may find it hard to identify and buy low arsenic rice variants from malls and stores say the researchers.
In Australia, the FSANZ or Food Standards Australia New Zealand regulates arsenic level in foods including rice so customers remain well informed. The permissible limit is 1 milligram in each kilogram. Diet experts are of the view that you should choose brown rice over polished white rice to obtain nutritional benefits and stay safe. Brown rice contains more nutrients and may help you stay lean. It is also good for those who are afflicted with diabetes. The presence of niacin, thiamine and Vitamin E make it an ideal staple in your diet. It can be used to make several nutritious dishes.
This view is also supported by Philippine Rice Research Institute’s Dr. Marissa Romero. The researcher said that brown rice eating can reduce the occurrence of cardiovascular ailments to an extent. She added that polishing brown rice for conversion to white rice removes a significant part of the nutrients. Majority of riboflavin, calcium and thiamine is thrown away by the process.