Rice-Based Cereals Tied to Higher Arsenic Levels in Infants

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Levels in infants who frequently ate baby rice cereal more than 3 times that of non-rice eaters
Levels in infants who frequently ate baby rice cereal more than 3 times that of non-rice eaters

HealthDay News — Infants fed rice-based foods may have significantly higher inorganic arsenic concentrations in their urine than those who never eat rice, according to a report published online April 25 in JAMA Pediatrics.

The investigators obtained diet information and urine samples from 759 infants born to mothers enrolled in the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study between 2011 and 2014. The infants' progress was tracked with phone interviews every 4 months until they turned 1. At that time, a final interview assessed dietary patterns during the past week, including whether an infant had eaten rice cereal, white or brown rice, or foods either made with rice or sweetened with brown rice syrup.

The researchers found that parents fed rice cereal to 4 out of 5 infants during their first year, and that more than 3 of 5 started on rice cereal as early as 4 to 6 months of age. At 1 year of age, 43% of infants ate some type of rice product within the last week, and one-quarter (24%) ate food either made with rice or sweetened rice syrup. Of the infants who donated urine samples, 55% had consumed some type of rice product in the prior two days.

The highest arsenic concentrations were found in infants who frequently ate baby rice cereal, with levels more than 3 times that of infants who didn't eat rice. Infants who ate foods mixed with rice or rice-based snacks had arsenic levels nearly double those of non-rice eaters. "The arsenic in their urine increased with the number of servings of rice or rice-containing food," lead researcher Margaret Karagas, PhD, chair of epidemiology at Dartmouth University's Geisel School of Medicine in Hanover, N.H., told HealthDay.

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