Without rice much of the world’s population would starve. Imagine Asian, East Indian, Mexican, North African, Mediterranean, or South American cuisine without rice as the foundation. The diversity of the population of the United States has led many of us to eat more rice than ever. So, it was frightening when a few years ago, newspaper headlines announced that rice contains alarming levels of cancer-causing arsenic. Experts recommended rinsing uncooked rice thoroughly to reduce our intake of this dangerous mineral.
Thanks to the famous Nurses’ Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study II, and the male Health Professionals Follow-up Study, there is now good news. Evaluating data from 45,231 men, and 160,408 women, scientists compared outcomes in participants who ate less than one serving of rice per week to participants who ate at least five servings per week. The findings demonstrated no increased cancer risk in those who ate rice more frequently.
This entire episode represents a teachable opportunity. The nutrition gospel of the week announced in powerful headlines can frighten and change the eating habits of consumers. Often these headlines are intended to increase the readership of publications. In this particular case, pausing to use calm logic would provide comfort to the average person. The question could be asked, is there a higher cancer incidence in countries where rice is foundational to the traditional diet? Epidemiology teaches us that the traditional Asian or Mediterranean diets promote good health, and are superior to the traditional American diet. We are encouraged to model our own diets after these two healthful styles of eating.
So, relax and enjoy rice, in all its forms, as part of a delicious and health promoting diet.