Rice Cereals And Snacks Dangerous To Infants Due To Arsenic?
Experts recently found that infant rice cereal and snacks contain some arsenic and babies who consumed these products showed higher arsenic levels in their urine. But the effects of arsenic on infants' health remain unclear.
Based on the latest study published in JAMA Pediatrics on April 25, lead author and Dartmouth College's Geisel School of Medicine epidemiologist Margaret Karagas and her team analyzed the eating habits of 759 infants born to mothers age 18 to 45. Researchers found that about 80 percent of the babies were introduced to rice cereals before their first birthday, Fox News notes.
"We knew rice cereal was a typical first food for babies - but we knew very little about how common it is to feed infants rice cereal in the U.S., or about the timing of introduction of rice cereal," Karagas said. "We were surprised by the number of infants consuming rice products."
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. But they stressed that they're still investigating the potential health effects of regular consumption of rice cereals to infants.
What Is Arsenic?
Arsenic is a poisonous chemical element that is released from certain human activities and naturally from the Earth's crust. Karagas reveals rice grains can take up arsenic from their environment and the rice in the United States contains some of the highest concentrations globally.
"Arsenic is a known carcinogen that can influence risk of cardiovascular, immune and other diseases," Karagas told Reuters Health by email. "There's a growing body of evidence that even relatively low levels of exposure may have adverse health impacts on young children including on growth, immunity and neurodevelopment."
Dr. Antonio J. Signes-Pastor of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland also added that inorganic arsenic exposure has been associated to cancer. It was also linked to other health problems like neurological, cardiovascular, respiratory and metabolic diseases.
How To Reduce Infants' Exposure To Arsenic
The recent study showed alarming results since infants are more sensitive to adverse health effects and consume higher amounts of inorganic arsenic. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that there are ways to reduce the arsenic exposure of children through consumption of other grain sources such as oats, wheat and barley.
"For toddlers, provide a well-balanced diet, which includes a variety of grains," the agency said, as per NPR. The FDA also suggested cooking rice in excess water and draining off that water, which reduces the inorganic arsenic to 40 to 60 percent.
Meanwhile, the latest findings came weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposed limits on inorganic arsenic levels in infant rice cereals. The proposed limit for inorganic arsenic in infant rice cereal is 100 parts per billion, which also mimics the current limit in the European Union, U.S. News reports.
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