Study: Everything I Like To Ingest Has Arsenic

What is safe to eat?

Photo Credit: Fabio Freitas e Silva/Shutterstock


The following post first appeared on  

I have a friend who claims to have stopped reading me because I ruin all over her favorite foods for her: ricequinoachicken ... After writing this post, I may boycott me as well. In astudy (hat tip: LiveScience) apparently designed by my friend for revenge on me, Dartmouth researchers found an association between bodily arsenic loads and consumption of the following substances I have swooned over in print (and enjoy in really life pretty much every chance I get): white winebeerBrussels sprouts, and "dark meat fish," a category that includes my beloved sardines.

For people who drink 2.5 beers for glasses of white wine per day, they found, arsenic levels were 20 percent to 30 percent higher than for non-drinkers. Gulp. Or, perhaps better: stop gulping.

Livescience's Bahar Gholipour raises an important caveat: The researchers acknowledge that it's unclear whether the arsenic levels the researchers found in their subjects are high enough to trigger the compound's negative effects, which include, according to the study, "skin lesions; skin, lung, and bladder cancer; vascular diseases; low birth weight; and potentially diabetes mellitus and increased susceptibility to infection." More research, they say, is needed, and I'll be following closely.

As for rice, which has been shown in recent studies to have high arsenic loads, the researchers found "no clear relationship" between consumption and arsenic loads. So my friend can go back to eating her favorite staple—seasoned with a lashing of schadenfreude. Excuse me while I whip up my dinner: air-poached air, accompanied by well-filtered water.

A cofounder of Maverick Farms, a North Carolina–based sustainable farm and food education center, Tom Philpott writes about the politics of food for publications such as the Guardian and Newsweek. A former columnist and editor at Grist, he now writes the "Food for Thought" blog for Mother Jones.

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