Gluten Free Diet Can Increase Exposure to Arsenic, Mercury

A new study
found that Americans following a gluten free diet had higher
levels of arsenic in their urine and mercury in their blood.
The good news is, you can avoid these heavy metals on a gluten
free diet.

A new study found that Americans following a gluten free diet had higher levels of arsenic in their urine and mercury in their blood.

Study participants that followed a gluten free diet had almost
double the amount of arsenic in their urine and 70 percent more
mercury in their blood than people following other diets.

The reason that a gluten free diet can increase exposure to
arsenic and mercury is because it tends toinclude a lot of rice, especially
rice flour. Rice flour is common in gluten free baked
goods and flour blends. It’s affordable and works well.

Study co-author Maria Argos explained in a press release, “In Europe, there
are regulations for food-based arsenic exposure, and perhaps
that is something we here in the United States need to
consider. We regulate levels of arsenic in water, but if rice
flour consumption increases the risk for exposure to arsenic,
it would make sense to regulate the metal in foods as well.”

The study authors caution that these results are
preliminary. This study established that eating gluten free
increases exposure to mercury and arsenic but not the health
consequences of a gluten free diet. Argos said, “until we
perform the studies to determine if there are corresponding
health consequences that could be related to higher levels of
exposure to arsenic and mercury by eating gluten-free, more
research is needed before we can determine whether this diet
poses a significant health risk.”

Rice Flour Alternatives

Eating some rice and even some rice flour isn’t necessarily
going to harm you, but if your diet relies heavily on rice, it
can be an issue. Here are some alternatives to rice flour:

  • chickpea flour – Also called besan.
  • almond flour – You can make this by grinding
    almonds in the blender.
  • oat flour – Which you can make from whole oats!
  • sorghum flour – You can find this in stores
    or buy it online.

Different flours behave differently in baked goods, so it might
take some testing to see what works best. I don’t do a ton of
gluten free baking, so I’m no expert. Cara at Fork and Beans
is, though. Check out her amazing guide to gluten free

Rice Alternatives

If you’re eating gluten free, cutting back on the rice you
eat can also be helpful in reducing your exposure to heavy
metals. Here are some great alternatives to try:

When you do eat rice, soak and rinse it before cooking to reduce
the arsenic content.

A gluten free diet can increase your exposure to heavy
metals, but it doesn’t have to! Keep an eye out for rice
ingredients to minimize your exposure to arsenic and mercury.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Andrea Nguyen.

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