Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Arsenic in my carbs?

I'm sure everyone has been monitoring the new(ish) studies over the last couple years, investigating arsenic in food products. Right?

Well, a May 2012 study put out in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, (Jackson BP, VF Taylor, MG Karagas, T Punshon, and K Cottingham. 2012. Arsenic, organic foods, and brown rice syrup. Env Health Perspect 120(5):623-626), takes a close look at arsenic levels in organic brown rice syrup. This syrup is an alternative to high fructose corn syrups and is often used in "natural" food products.

Arsenic is natural, right? Well, yes. It's naturally-occurring and is found to some extent in all of our foods already, but rice (and shellfish) tends to have more arsenic than other food stuffs. The upside is that most forms of arsenic found in our food are relatively non-toxic. The downside is that the forms of arsenic (inorganic) that are toxic are actually cancer promoters and these are the forms that were recently found at higher-than-expected levels in the organic brown rice syrup.


This is a good time to remember Paracelsus, who taught us that it's the dose that makes the poison. So what dose makes arsenic a poison? In what form? For which individual? Million dollar questions and topics of great debate.

In the meantime, though, this article may provide an interesting read for those folks out there who use infant formulas that contain organic brown rice syrup. Check your cupboards? The authors tested only two toddler formulas that contained the organic brown rice syrup, but the inorganic arsenic in those two were significantly higher (20x) than the arsenic found in the 15 infant formulas tested that had no organic brown rice syrup.

Results from two organic brown rice syrup-containing formulas may not be enough to make you "throw the baby out with the bath water" but it certainly makes me think about it. Especially considering similar results were found for analysis of inorganic arsenic in cereal and energy bars and energy shot blocks made with and without organic brown rice syrup.

While arsenic in the organic brown rice syrup used in your energy gel/drink/bar that you consume while training may get lost in the giant sea of your body amid all the other food sources you consume, think if your primary food source (e.g., formula) contained an ingredient that had a cancer-promoting substance and you have a nutrient-hungry body of a wee one?

Naturally-occurring or not, it may be worth asking your physician (or local toxicologist!) about.


  1. Yikes! Glad I don't have to worry about infant formula anymore.

  2. Whoa. Definitely food for thought. Thank you for this.

  3. Interesting! I am always looking out for what is going on with my food sources. It is almost frightening how even the "god for you" things are not always that great anymore.

  4. Wow, good to be aware of - thanks for sharing.