Increased global mortality linked to dietary exposure to inorganic arsenic via rice-based diets
The research of UK researchers shows that there is a significant association between elevated cardiovascular mortality, recorded at a local authority level, and the consumption of inorganic arsenic bearing rice.
Rice is the most widely consumed staple food source for a
large part of the world’s population. It has now been confirmed that
rice can contribute to prolonged low-level arsenic exposure leading to
thousands of avoidable premature deaths per year.
Especially inorganic arsenic is well known acute poison, but it can also
contribute to health problems, including cancers and cardiovascular
diseases, if consumed at even relatively low concentrations over an
extended period of time.
Compared to other staple foods, rice tends to concentrate
inorganic arsenic. Across the globe, over three billion people consume
rice as their major staple and the inorganic arsenic in that rice has
been estimated by some to give rise to over 50,000 avoidable premature
deaths per year.
A collaborating group of cross-Manchester researchers from The University of Manchester and The University of Salford
have published new research exploring the relationship, in England and
Wales, between the consumption of rice and cardiovascular diseases
caused by arsenic exposure.
Their findings, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment,
shows that - once corrected for the major factors known to contribute
to cardiovascular disease (for example obesity, smoking, age, lack of
income, lack of education) there is a significant association between
elevated cardiovascular mortality, recorded at a local authority level,
and the consumption of inorganic arsenic bearing rice.
Professor David Polya from The University of Manchester
said: “The type of study undertaken, an ecological study, has many
limitations, but is a relatively inexpensive way of determining if there
is plausible link between increased consumption of inorganic arsenic
bearing rice and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
study suggests that the highest 25% of rice consumers in England and
Wales may plausibly be at greater risks of cardiovascular mortality due
to inorganic arsenic exposure compared to the lowest 25% of rice
“The modelled increased risk is around 6% (with a
confidence interval for this figure of 2% to 11%). The increased risk
modelled might also reflect in part a combination of the susceptibility,
behaviours and treatment of those communities in England and Wales with
relatively high rice diets.”
robust types of study are required to confirm the result, given many of
the beneficial effects otherwise of eating rice due to its high fibre
content, the research team suggest that rather than avoid eating rice,
people could consume rice varieties, such as basmati, and different
types like polished rice (rather whole grain rice) which are known to
typically have lower inorganic arsenic contents. Other positive
behaviours would be to eat a balanced variety of staples, not just
The lead author, Ms
Lingqian Xu, is a President's Doctoral Scholarship Award recipient from
The University of Manchester and supervised by Professor David Polya
(The University of Manchester) and Dr Debapriya Mondal (University of
Salford). Mr Qian Li is a former Masters of Pollution and Environmental
Control (MPEC) student from The University of Manchester.
This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.
The original study:
Lingqian Xu, David A Polya, Qian Li, Debapriya Mondal. Association of
low-level inorganic arsenic exposure from rice with age-standardized
mortality risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in England and Wales. Sci.
Total. Environ., 743 (2020) 140534. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140534
Related studies (newest first)
L.-Q. Xu, D. Mondal, D.A. Polya, Positive Association of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) with chronic exposure to drinking water arsenic (As) at concentrations below the WHO provisional guideline value: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 17 (2020) 2536. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph17072536.
K.A. Moon, S. Oberoi, A. Barchowsky, Y. Chen, E. Guallar, K.E. Nachman, A dose-response meta-analysis of chronic arsenic exposure and incident cardiovascular disease. Int. J. Epidemiol. 46 (2017) 1924–1939. DOI: 10.1093/ije/dyx202.
S.F. Farzan, Y. Chen, J.R. Rees, M.S. Zens, M.R. Karagas, Risk of death from cardiovascular disease associated with low-level arsenic exposure among long-term smokers in a US population-based study. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 287 (2015) 93–97. DOI: 10.1016/j.taap.2015.05.013
K.A. Moon, E. Guallar, J.G. Umans, R.B. Devereux, L.G. Best, K.A. Francesconi, Association between exposure to low to moderate arsenic levels and incident cardiovascular disease. Ann. Intern. Med. 159 (2013) 649–659. DOI: 10.7326/0003-4819-159-10-201311190-00719.
M.J. Medrano, R. Boix, R. Pastor-Barriuso, M. Palau, J. Damián, R. Ramis, J.L. del Barrio, A. Navas-Acien, Arsenic in public water supplies and cardiovascular mortality in Spain. Environ. Res., 110 (2010) 448–454. DOI: 10.1016/j.envres.2009.10.002
F. Wu, F. Jasmine, M.G. Kibriya, M. Liu, O. Wójcik, F. Parvez, R. Rahaman, S. Roy, R. Paul-Brutus, S. Segers, V. Slavkovich, T. Islam, D. Levy, J.L. Mey, A. van Geen, J.H. Graziano, H. Ahsan, Y. Chen, Association between arsenic exposure from drinking water and plasma levels of cardiovascular markers. Am. J. Epidemiol. 175 (2012) 1252–1261. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwr464.