This article is shared with permission from our friends at Nutrition Facts.
I recommend people switch away from using rice milk.
Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.
For kids and teens, the amount of arsenic flowing through their bodies was found to be about 15% higher for each quarter-cup of daily rice consumption. A similar link was found in adults. A study of pregnant women found that about a half a cup a day of cooked rice could raise urine arsenic levels as much as drinking a liter of arsenic-contaminated water at the current upper federal safety limit. So, that suggests that many Americans “may be exposed to potentially harmful levels of arsenic through rice consumption.”
But, you know where Americans get most of their rice arsenic from? Rice Krispies— though brown Rice Krispies may have twice as much.
“Organic brown rice syrup…is used as a sweetener in organic food products as an alternative to high-fructose corn syrup.” Big mistake, as organic brown rice syrup products may introduce significant concentrations of toxic arsenic into peoples’ diets. For example, two of these might hit the provisional upper daily arsenic limit, based on the water standards.
“[T]oddler formulas with added organic brown rice syrup have 20 times higher levels of [toxic] arsenic.” And, “[i]n older children,” thanks to brown rice syrup, a few cereal “bars a day could pose a [quote-unquote] very high cancer risk.”
What about rice milk? A consensus statement of both the “European…and…American [Societies] for Pediatric…Nutrition…recommend the avoidance of rice milk for infants and young children.” And, generally, toxic arsenic intake in infancy and childhood should be as low as possible.
To this end, “the UK has banned the consumption of rice milk for young children,” a notion to which Consumer Reports concurred, recommending no servings a week of rice milk for children, and no more than half a cup a day for adults.
The arsenic in various brands of rice milk ranges all over the place, a 15-fold difference between the highest and lowest contamination, suggesting manufacturers could make low arsenic rice milk if they wanted. Consumer Reports found Pacific brand and Rice Dream were right about average, though perhaps for Rice Dream, it appears the vanilla or chocolate flavors may be lower. Rice vinegar doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about, but rice pasta and rice cakes end up similar to pure rice—which makes sense, because that’s what they pretty much are, though pasta is boiled. So, we’d expect the levels to be cut 40 to 60%, like when you boil and drain rice.
If for some reason, you just couldn’t live without rice milk, you could make your own, using lower-arsenic rice, like brown basmati from India, Pakistan, or California, but then it may have even less nutrition, as at least most of the commercial brands are fortified. Better options might be soy, oat, hemp, or almond milk, though you don’t want kids to be drinking too much almond milk. There have been a few case reports of little kids drinking like four cups a day, running into kidney stone problems, due to the relatively high oxalate content, averaging about five times more than soy milk.
I have about 30 videos that touch on soy milk—how it may normalize development in girls and reduce breast cancer risk, as well as prostate cancer risk in men. Some of the latest science on soy milk includes an association with better knee x-rays, suggesting protection from osteoarthritis, and an interventional study suggesting improved gut health by boosting the growth of good bacteria, Though drinking three quarts a day—10 to 12 cups a day for a year—may inflame your liver. Two cups a day, though, can have an extraordinary effect on your cholesterol, a whopping 25% drop in bad cholesterol after just 21 days.
An ounce-and-a-half of almonds every day, like a handful a day, can drop LDL 13% in six weeks, and reduce abdominal fat, though a cup of almond milk only contains about 10 almonds—less than a third of what was used in the study. So, it’s not clear if almond milk helps much, but there was a study on oat milk compared to rice milk. Five weeks of oat milk lowered bad cholesterol, whereas rice milk didn’t, and even increased triglycerides, and may even bump blood pressure a little bit. But, the oat milk only dropped LDL about 5%, and that was with three cups a day; so, as plant-based alternatives go, it appears soy milk wins the day.
So, why drink rice milk at all when there are such better options? There’s really not much nutrition in rice milk. In fact, there are case reports of “severe malnutrition” in toddlers who centered their diets around rice milk due to multiple food allergies. Infants and toddlers have increased protein requirements compared to adults; and so, if the bulk of some poor kid’s diet is rice milk, coconut milk, potato milk, or almond milk, they may not get enough.
Oh, yeah? Show me one case of kwashiorkor (that bloated belly protein/calorie deficiency) due to rice milk. Here you go. Here’s another one, “severe kwashiorkor,” not in Ethiopia, but in Atlanta, Georgia—because literally 99% of his diet was rice milk. So, these malnutrition cases were not because they drank rice milk, but rather because they drank rice milk nearly exclusively. But, I just use these to illustrate the relative lack of nutrition in rice milk. So, if you’re going to choose a milk, might as well go for one that has less arsenic—and, more nutrition.
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I’ve got a bunch of videos on soy milk, but I think only one major almond milk one so far: Prostate Cancer & Organic Milk vs. Almond Milk. I plan on doing a bunch more on choosing between various milk options; stay tuned.
Already went through lots of useful material on dietary arsenic, if you missed any:
- Where Does the Arsenic in Chicken Come From?
- Where Does the Arsenic in Rice, Mushrooms, & Wine Come From?
- The Effects of Too Much Arsenic in the Diet
- Cancer Risk from Arsenic in Rice & Seaweed
- Which Rice Has Less Arsenic: Black, Brown, Red, White, or Wild?
- Which Brands and Sources of Rice Have the Least Arsenic?
- How to Cook Rice to Lower Arsenic Levels
- Arsenic in Infant Rice Cereal
The last four videos then take this information, and try to distill it into practical recommendations:
- How Risky is the Arsenic in Rice? (8/07)
- How Much Arsenic in Rice is Too Much? (8/09)
- Is White Rice a Yellow-Light or Red-Light Food? (8/11)
- Do the Pros of Brown Rice Outweigh the Cons of Arsenic? (8/14)
If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.
- Specific writers unnamed other than Cahill MS. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 2016. May 13, 2014 Arsenic in Rice and Rice Products Risk Assessment Report (Revised March 2016).
- Lai PY, Cottingham KL, Steinmaus C, Karagas MR, Miller MD. Arsenic and Rice: Translating Research to Address Health Care Providers’ Needs. J Pediatr. 2015 Oct;167(4):797-803.
- Hojsak I, Braegger C, Bronsky J, Campoy C, Colomb V, Decsi T, Domellöf M, Fewtrell M, Mis NF, Mihatsch W, Molgaard C, van Goudoever J; ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition. Arsenic in rice: a cause for concern. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2015 Jan;60(1):142-5.
- Pelley J. Arsenic in rice: a recipe for nutrient loss. Environ Sci Technol. 2009 Nov 1;43(21):8004.
- [No authors listed] Arsenic in your food: our findings show a real need for federal standards for this toxin. Consum Rep. 2012 Nov;77(11):22-7.
- Jackson BP, Taylor VF, Karagas MR, Punshon T, Cottingham KL. Arsenic, organic foods, and brown rice syrup. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 May;120(5):623-6.
- (authors unknown) Results of our tests of rice and rice products. Consumer Reports Arsenic in Food November 2012_1.pdf.
- Davis MA, Mackenzie TA, Cottingham KL, Gilbert-Diamond D, Punshon T, Karagas MR. Rice consumption and urinary arsenic concentrations in U.S. children. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Oct;120(10):1418-24.
- Wei Y, Zhu J, Nguyen A. Rice consumption and urinary concentrations of arsenic in US adults. Int J Environ Health Res. 2014;24(5):459-70.
- Gilbert-Diamond D, Cottingham KL, Gruber JF, Punshon T, Sayarath V, Gandolfi AJ, Baker ER, Jackson BP, Folt CL, Karagas MR. Rice consumption contributes to arsenic exposure in US women. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Dec 20;108(51):20656-60.
- Mori F, Serranti D, Barni S, Pucci N, Rossi ME, de Martino M, Novembre E. A kwashiorkor case due to the use of an exclusive rice milk diet to treat atopic dermatitis. Nutr J. 2015 Aug 21;14:83.
- Meharg AA, Deacon C, Campbell RC, Carey AM, Williams PN, Feldmann J, Raab A. Inorganic arsenic levels in rice milk exceed EU and US drinking water standards. J Environ Monit. 2008 Apr;10(4):428-31.
- Onning G, Wallmark A, Persson M, Akesson B, Elmståhl S, Oste R. Consumption of oat milk for 5 weeks lowers serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in free-living men with moderate hypercholesterolemia. Ann Nutr Metab. 1999;43(5):301-9.
- Keller MD, Shuker M, Heimall J, Cianferoni A. Severe malnutrition resulting from use of rice milk in food elimination diets for atopic dermatitis. Isr Med Assoc J. 2012 Jan;14(1):40-2.
- Carvalho NF, Kenney RD, Carrington PH, Hall DE. Severe nutritional deficiencies in toddlers resulting from health food milk alternatives. Pediatrics. 2001 Apr;107(4):E46.
- Shannon R, Rodriguez JM. Total arsenic in rice milk. Food Addit Contam Part B Surveill. 2014;7(1):54-6.
- Onuegbu AJ, Olisekodiaka JM, Onibon MO, Adesiyan AA, Igbeneghu CA. Consumption of soymilk lowers atherogenic lipid fraction in healthy individuals. J Med Food. 2011 Mar;14(3):257-60.
- Berryman CE, West SG, Fleming JA, Bordi PL, Kris-Etherton PM. Effects of daily almond consumption on cardiometabolic risk and abdominal adiposity in healthy adults with elevated LDL-cholesterol: a randomized controlled trial. J Am Heart Assoc. 2015 Jan 5;4(1):e000993.
- Li H, Zeng C, Wei J, Yang T, Gao SG, Li YS, Luo W, Xiao WF, Xiong YL, Lei GH. Relationship between soy milk intake and radiographic knee joint space narrowing and osteophytes. Rheumatol Int. 2016 Sep;36(9):1215-22.
- Koch L. Nutrition: High isoflavone intake delays puberty onset and may reduce breast cancer risk in girls. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2010 Nov;6(11):595.
- Jacobsen BK, Knutsen SF, Fraser GE. Does high soy milk intake reduce prostate cancer incidence? The Adventist Health Study (United States). Cancer Causes Control. 1998 Dec;9(6):553-7.
- Wiwanitkit V. Excessive consumption of soybean milk and unexplained hepatitis. J Postgrad Med. 2012 Jul-Sep;58(3):226-7.
- Cheyns K, Waegeneers N, Van de Wiele T, Ruttens A. Arsenic Release from Foodstuffs upon Food Preparation. J Agric Food Chem. 2017 Mar 22;65(11):2443-2453.
- Ellis D, Lieb J. Hyperoxaluria and Genitourinary Disorders in Children Ingesting Almond Milk Products. J Pediatr. 2015 Nov;167(5):1155-8.
- Fujisawa T, Ohashi Y, Shin R, Narai-Kanayama A, Nakagaki T. The effect of soymilk intake on the fecal microbiota, particularly Bifidobacterium species, and intestinal environment of healthy adults: a pilot study. Biosci Microbiota Food Health. 2017;36(1):33-37.
- Cheyns K, Waegeneers N, Van de wiele T, Ruttens A. Arsenic Release from Foodstuffs upon Food Preparation. J Agric Food Chem. 2017;65(11):2443-2453.
- Ellis D, Lieb J. Hyperoxaluria and Genitourinary Disorders in Children Ingesting Almond Milk Products. J Pediatr. 2015;167(5):1155-8.
- Fujisawa T, Ohashi Y, Shin R, Narai-kanayama A, Nakagaki T. The effect of soymilk intake on the fecal microbiota, particularly Bifidobacterium species, and intestinal environment of healthy adults: a pilot study. Biosci Microbiota Food Health. 2017;36(1):33-37.
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