Study Reveals that Parboiling Method Reduces Inorganic Arsenic in Rice

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A new study published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology has found that parboiling method in rice reduces inorganic arsenic, a toxic substance and carcinogen that can enter rice from the soil of flooded paddies.

It further explained that this new method has the added benefit of increasing the calcium content of rice, while contamination of rice with arsenic is a major problem in some regions of the world with high rice consumption.

According to statistics from the International Rice Research Institute, people in Bangladesh eat about a pound of rice per person per day, and this consumption is among the highest in the world, placing humans at risk for elevated exposure to inorganic arsenic.

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Study Reveals that Parboiling Method Reduces Inorganic Arsenic in Rice
Inorganic Arsenic, a toxic substance and carcinogen that can enter rice from the soil of flooded paddies.

The scientists from the Institute for global food security, Andrew Meharg doubted if parboiling wholegrain rice (with the husk removed) would reduce the levels of different forms of arsenic compared with parboiling rough rice.

That’s because the husk can have high levels of inorganic arsenic, and it could also act as a barrier, preventing arsenic species from leaving the rest of the grain during parboiling.

To comprehend this analogy, the researchers tested their new processing method in 13 traditional, small-scale parboiling plants throughout Bangladesh. The team used ion chromatography interfaced with inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry to analyze arsenic species in rice.

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They found that in untreated rough rice, inorganic arsenic is highly elevated in the bran, compared with the husk. Parboiling wholegrain rice instead of parboiling rough rice reduced levels of inorganic arsenic by about 25 percent in the final polished grain, while increasing calcium by 213 percent.

However, the new method reduced potassium by 40 percent. The researchers say that the potassium loss must be balanced with the advantages of reduced arsenic and increased calcium.

The American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society, is a not-for-profit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. ACS does not conduct research, but publishes and publicizes peer-reviewed scientific studies. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

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