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

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


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.

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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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4 Responses:

 
Mar
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said this on
06 Mar 2017 5:36:43 AM PST
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.

 
Pippy
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said this on
07 Mar 2017 6:25:36 AM PST
Jefferson, do you know if any of the people were tested for arsenic and mercury before going on the GF 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.

 
Janet Hoover
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said this on
07 Mar 2017 9:02:03 AM PST
I have been reading that rice has arsenic in it so this would make sense that GF dieters have more arsenic in their urine. Rice is one of the most substituted ingredients that I have found in the GF diet. In fact I have developed a sensitivity to rice since being on the GF 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 GF breads, cakes, etc without rice flour. So maybe this link to arsenic should be investigated as well.

 
Catherine
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said this on
07 Mar 2017 10:48:48 AM PST
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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