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Rice cooked in coffee maker can reduce arsenic intake

Rice has 10 times more arsenic than other foods because it is grown in flood plains.

By Stephen Feller

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, July 23 (UPI) -- Researchers are suggesting people cook rice in a coffee maker instead of boiling it in a pan to reduce potentially harmful levels of arsenic in the food.

Rice contains on average 10 times more arsenic than other foods because it is grown in flood plains. This causes inorganic arsenic to be released by soil minerals, which are then absorbed by the plant.

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"This is a very significant breakthrough as this offers an immediate solution to decreasing inorganic arsenic in the diet," said Andy Meharg, a professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at Queen's Institute for Global Food Security, in a press release.

Researchers sought a simple way to remove arsenic from rice by testing two types of percolating technology, one a normal store-bought coffee maker using tap water and the other using freshly hot distilled water recycled by condensing boiling-water steam.

Both methods removed up to 85 percent of arsenic depending on the type of rice. The steam method of percolating on average removed 59 percent of arsenic from white rice and 69 percent from whole grain rice. The store-bought filtration coffee maker removed and average of 49 percent of arsenic from samples of 6 white and 6 whole grain brands of coffee.

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"We discovered that by using percolating technology, where cooking water is continually passed through rice in a constant flow, we could maximize removal of arsenic," Meharg said. "Chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause a range of health problems including developmental problems, heart disease, diabetes and nervous system damage. However, most worrying are lung and bladder cancers."

The researchers said that children and infants were of most concern for arsenic poisoning because they eat about 3 times as much rice as adults, and their organs are still developing.

The study is published in PLOS ONE.

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