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    Does a Gluten-free Diet Mean Higher Arsenic and Mercury Levels?

    Jefferson Adams
    • A study finds higher levels of arsenic and mercury in gluten-free eaters.

    Does a Gluten-free Diet Mean Higher Arsenic and Mercury Levels?
    Caption: Do people with celiac disease face higher levels of arsenic and mercury levels? Photo: CC--Matt Brubeck

    Celiac.com 03/01/2017 - Do people who eat a gluten-free diet face an increased exposure to toxic metals like arsenic and mercury, and thus possibly higher rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurological effects?

    That's a very possible scenario, according to a report published in the journal Epidemiology. Maria Argos, assistant professor of epidemiology in the UIC School of Public Health, and her colleagues searched data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey for a link between gluten-free diet and biomarkers of toxic metals in blood and urine.

    Of the 7,471 people they surveyed between 2009 and 2014, they found 73 participants who reported eating a gluten-free diet.

    People on a gluten-free diet higher concentrations of arsenic in their urine, and mercury in their blood, than those who ate a non-gluten-free diet. In fact, arsenic levels for gluten-free eaters were nearly twice as high, and mercury levels were 70 percent higher.

    So, does a gluten-free diet pose an actual health risk? Do people need to make any immediate dietary changes?

    While noteworthy, Argos says the findings indicate the need for more 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."

    Argos points out that the EU has in place regulations for food-based arsenic exposure, while the United States does not. The question that needs to be answered if whether rice flour consumption increases the risk for exposure to arsenic. An answer to that requires further study.

    Source: University of Illinois at Chicago

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    Very little helpful information in this article. The article points to increased levels of arsenic in rice, a gluten free diet staple... but what about in other foods? People on a gluten free diet are already used to managing their food intake...so please give us a few more guidelines. There's no mention of what foods constitute an increased risk of exposure to mercury in a gluten free diet.

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    Guest Pippy

    Posted

    Jefferson, do you know if any of the people were tested for arsenic and mercury before going on the gluten-free diet? I do wish these studies had more detail. A lot of this makes sense as almost all the processed food out there is based on rice and rice is notorious for having arsenic. All the more reason to eat a whole food diet AMAP. I feel for the children whose parents are not hip to this knowledge. Many of them will have life long problems like learning disabilities, hearing loss and neurological issues, depending on how much exposure they have.

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    Guest Janet Hoover

    Posted

    I have been reading that rice has arsenic in it so this would make sense that gluten-free dieters have more arsenic in their urine. Rice is one of the most substituted ingredients that I have found in the gluten-free diet. In fact I have developed a sensitivity to rice since being on the gluten-free diet for over 10 years. Whenever I eat rice, my skin breaks out in a rash now. I am finding it difficult to find ready made gluten-free breads, cakes, etc without rice flour. So maybe this link to arsenic should be investigated as well.

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    Guest Catherine

    Posted

    That was my first thought about higher levels of arsenic--rice. It is reputed to have high levels of arsenic. I eat a fair amount of rice as my starch and imagine others do too.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, and science. He previously served as Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and provided health and medical content for Sharecare.com.

    Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book Dangerous Grains by James Braly, MD and Ron Hoggan, MA.

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