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Effects of polishing, cooking, and storing on total arsenic and arsenic species concentrations in rice cultivated in Japan

Abstract: The effects of polishing, cooking, and storing on total arsenic (As) and As species concentrations in rice were studied adopting typical Japanese conditions. Total and inorganic As levels in three white rice samples polished by removing 10% of bran by weight were reduced to 61–66% and 51–70% of those in brown rice. The As levels in the white rice after three washings with deionized water were reduced to 81–84% and 71–83% of those in raw rice. Rinse-free rice, which requires no washing before cooking because bran remaining on the surface of the rice was removed previously, yielded an effect similar to that of reducing As in rice by washing. Low-volume cooking (water:rice 1.4–2.0:1) rice to dryness did not remove As. The As content of brown rice stored in grain form for one year was stable.

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Alex’s Notes: Arsenic in rice… I remember when this hit the news and people freaked out. But I’m not here to reminisce about media sensationalism. Arsenic in rice is indeed a concern, but as the study at hand will show you, there are several useful and useless things you can do to reduce your exposure.

For example, eating white rice instead of brown will reduce total arsenic exposure by 30-50%. Not surprising given that total arsenic concentrations were found to be 3-10 times higher in the bran of the rice than in the brown rice, suggesting that the “healthy” brown rice fiber may not be so healthy. However, removing the bran from the brown rice (if you can still call it that) will reduce the arsenic levels by 40%. Cooking has no significant effect, and neither does storing the rice for a year (why would it?). For the white rice, washing it three times will reduce the arsenic further by 15-20%, but buying rinse-free white rice has the same effect and saves you the preparation time of washing. Finally, it must be noted that the area of cultivation significantly effected baseline arsenic concentrations with the greatest baseline amounts being over 10 times greater than the least.

Bottom line: For all you folks concerned about rice, go with the white variety where the bran is removed, and pick a source that uses organic and sustainable farming methods.

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