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 flours!

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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Author: Becky Striepe

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