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Eating poorly cooked rice as dangerous as smoking: study

Wednesday October 25 2017

Fertility researchers have found that rice that

Fertility researchers have found that rice that is not properly cooked contains arsenic metals which interferes with reproductive systems and causes cancer. PHOTO| FILE| NMG 

ANGELA OKETCH
By ANGELA OKETCH
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In Cairo, Egypt

Rice may be a common delicacy on our tables. But new findings show eating poorly cooked rice may cause fibroids and cancer.

Fertility researchers have found that rice that is not properly cooked contains arsenic metals which interferes with reproductive systems and causes cancer.

Prof Oladapo Ashiru, President of Africa Fertility Society said despite rice being one of the world’s most important grains, eaten by the majority of the world’s population, few know how to prepare it.

“I am worried at the rate at which this commodity is being prepared. Most people are not even aware that they are endangering their lives so long as they are full, that is it,” he said

He said the high consumption of improperly cooked rice in Africa has led to high incidences of fibroids.

‘CAUSES FOR FIBROIDS AND INFERTILITY’

Speaking on Tuesday during a meeting organised by Merck Foundation, and dubbed Merck Africa Asia Luminary meeting in Cairo, Egypt, the experts argued rice picks up these arsenic metals which are naturally found in the soil and in groundwater often used to irrigate the grain in the dry season.

This makes the metal in the soil more readily available, making easier to be absorbed by humans when they eat the grain.

“Arsenic metal lowers progesterone levels but increases oestrogen, impairs ovulation and lowers thyroid function which are all causes for fibroids and infertility,” he said.

Fibroids are non-cancerous tumours that appear in the tissues around the uterus, it also grows from the muscle layers of the womb.

Fibroid affects 25 per cent of females especially those in the reproductive age.

The growths vary from the size of a bean to being as large as a melon.

‘ONLY THING I CAN EQUATE TO IS SMOKING’

Prof Andy Meharg of Queen’s University Belfast who has been studying arsenic for years said the problem looked big though it has an easy solution, ways of cooking rice will reduce arsenic content in our food.

“The only thing I can really equate arsenic consumption to is smoking. If you take one or two cigarettes per day, your risks are going to be a lot less than if you’re smoking 30 or 40 cigarettes a day. It’s dose-dependent the more you eat, the higher your risk is.” he said.

Prof Meharg said the technique of reducing the content was to soak rice overnight before cooking it in a 5:1 water-to-rice ratio.

This cuts the level by over 80 per cent.

He advised that people should avoid the normal ratio of one to two, whereby one glass of rice goes with two glasses of water, the method is very dangerous since all the water soak in.

“I know the soaking method is boring but for your health, it is necessary since the one to two ratios is very dangerous,” he said

According to data from the National Irrigation Board, the consumption of rice is increasing at about 12 per cent since 2008 while maize stands at one per cent and wheat at three per cent respectively.

Kenya produces less than 200,000 metric tonnes of rice against a demand of over 540,000 to 600,000 metric tonnes per year. The deficit of 75 per cent is imported from neighbouring countries, and mostly from Pakistan, who grows it using the same irrigation method.

According to Prof Ashiru, boiling and pouring out the water and boiling again also reduces arsenic content by huge percentage.

“Alternatively without having to boil, the water ratio to rice ratio should be increased to five to one,” he said.

Research carried out by Professor Jörg Feldmann of the University of Aberdeen has explored the amount and type of arsenic that can be found in rice and rice products and reasons for its occurrence.

According to the study mentioned by speakers states that arsenic found in rice can be subcategorised further one of these categories is inorganic arsenic which is a class I carcinogen which means it can cause cancer.

The research has been identified as fundamental by food standards agencies in the USA, the UK, and the European Union.

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