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Infants who eat rice products have higher arsenic concentrations

Islamabad (Online): When parents first introduce solid foods to their babies, rice products are typically among the first foods offered.

Choking or allergy risks are low with rice products, and they feature in many types of infant foods.

However, a new study advises caution, as it finds that infants who consume rice products have higher concentrations of arsenic in their urine, compared with those who do not eat rice products.

Infants who eat rice products have higher concentrations of arsenic in their urine, potentially putting them at risk for adverse health effects.

The study – led by Margaret R. Karagas, PhD, from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire – is published in JAMA Pediatrics.

According to the study authors, the recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) for inorganic arsenic concentrations in polished white rice is 200 nanograms per gram (ng/g), and the proposed US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limit for infant rice cereal is 100 ng/g.

However, the researchers say many infant rice cereals may contain inorganic arsenic concentrations that exceed these limits.

Until now, rice consumption in early childhood in the US has not been well defined, and previous research has suggested that arsenic exposure in utero and in early life could be linked with adverse effects on fetal growth, as well as infant and child immunity and neurodevelopment.

The researchers note that arsenic found in rice and rice products can be in either an inorganic or organic form; nearly all arsenic in drinking water is inorganic.

They say that, although the toxic effects of inorganic arsenic have been established, laboratory evidence has suggested that organic forms could also present a health risk. They add, however, that “further data are needed.”

To further investigate, Karagas and colleagues looked at how often infants ate rice products during their first year of life and examined the link with urinary arsenic concentrations.

In total, there were 759 infants born between 2011-2014 who were included in the New Hampshire Birth Cohort Study. The researchers conducted phone interviews with the infants’ parents every 4 months until 12 months of age.

When the infants were 1 year old, the team assessed dietary patterns during the past week, which included information on whether the infant had eaten rice cereal, white or brown rice, or foods made with rice or sweetened with brown rice syrup.

Starting in 2013, the researchers collected infant urine samples, along with a 3-day food diary. For 129 infants, more detailed data was available, including information on diet and total urinary arsenic at 12 months of age. Additionally, for 48 infants, the researchers had data on urinary arsenic species.