Arsenic in the Gluten-Free Diet - Share Your Questions or Ideas

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Excited to Join the Conversation

Sara Collina's picture

I am really excited to be part of this discussion. I think how arsenic may be impacting people on a gluten-free diet is really important topic, but worry that people will panic when they hear the word "Arsenic"-- I wonder, how we can get the word out without people panicking?

Pleased to see CDF-Dartmouth arsenic study

Jennifer Iscol's picture

The Celiac Community Foundation of Northern California published a three-part series on arsenic in rice for people on a GF diet, including regulatory information, facts, tips and a brand survey.  Our foundation's experience with publishing the arsenic series in 2015 is that most people on a gluten-free diet for medical reasons had never heard of the issue and therefore doubted that there was any significance to it. They were not alarmed and simly didn't believe the information was relevant to them. So it will be very helpful to have a study on the topic by Dartmouth and CDF working together - it will bring much more attention to the issue and hopefully have an impact on FDA's priorities in regulating rice products. Past articles and studies on the danger of arsenic in food only reference people who eat a standard diet, not a gluten-free, rice-based diet. We also found in our survey of 70 major gluten-free brands that most manufacturers are not in a position to source low-arsenc rice for their products, do not have the bandwidth to focus on the issue, and do not plan to make it a priority to test their products for arsenic unless required to do so by consumer demand or regulation. Thank you for involving the patient community in this important topic.

This is an area of significant concern

Deborah Altman's picture

As the mother of a teenager with Celiac, this is an issue of major concern.  So much of the gluten free diet centers around rice and rice based products.  I also just read here about the increased levels of arsenic in fruit juice (especially grape and apple, my son's favorites).  Despite trying to utilyse a variety of flours when baking, rice is always the prefered option in my family.  It most closely resembles wheat flour.  Is there a difference in white vs. brown rice?

Thank you for researching this important topic.

Shawn Cone's picture

My son was born with Renal Tubular Acidosis and had to take the nastiest tasting medicine from 7 months of age to 5 years of age.  The only way to get him to take it was to add it to a serving of infant rice cereal, which he took 5 times per day!  Now I am terrified by these finding of high levels of arsenic in his food.  He also has a gluten sensitivity, which doubles my concern.  Is there any way to test him for arsenic?  Also, do organic brands of rice cereal have lower arsenic levels?

Clinical Trial name

Rebecca Hogue's picture

What coming up with a name for the study - from a participant recruitment perspective - perhaps name the study as a question rather than a statement - or better yet don't describe your outcome describe how you want patients to participate. You will want to emphasize that patients are not required to eat gluten to participate in the study - as many patients are interested in participating in research but are not willing to eat gluten.

Perhaps label it as something like: Monitoring Arsenic Levels in Celiac Patients - Short and Long Term Effects

That way patients are not scared away by the title.




Arsenic consumption in children with celiac disease

elizabeth carroll's picture


I, too, am so happy that this study is being taken on at this level.  This has been an issue that I first read about in 2007 and wrote about in 2013.  I have a daughter with celiac disease and was shocked to calculate that she probably was intaking too much arsenic.  We made changes in our family diet (and water source) and I hope that things remain fine.  But, she has never been tested for arsenic exposure.  I will link to the article I wrote in 2013 (this was published in a blog that I wrote called Gluten Free Family Life that was part of the webpage of a gluten free baking page.  This webpage has been redesigned and the old blog posts are no longer available, so I am linking to my own document).  Please keep me updated on progress and let us know if our family can help at all.  My daughter, husband, and mother in law have celiac disease.  Here is the link to 2013 piece:

Research Sample

Michelle Platzer's picture

Since we are looking to learn about arsenic in Celiac patients versus the general population, it might be most helpful to go a step farther and take a look at people with the same or similar diets.  For example, if we compare levels in a Celiac patient with the levels of other people who have a similar diet, then the study will be more reliable than comparing random people who eat vastly different things.  Would it be possible to compare arsenic levels of Celiac patients to non-celiac family members in the same households (or roommates)?   This would give us a more accurate comparison.

Research Question: Arsenic levels with a gluten-free diet

Ann Chang's picture

Posted on behalf of Dartmouth College researchers.

Take a look at the research question below. Is this an important topic to you? Why or why not? Other ideas about this topic?

Proposed Research Question: Do arsenic levels in the body increase when people start to eat a gluten free diet?

This question will evaluate whether the level of arsenic changes when people switch to a gluten free diet. This will help figure out if diet is a direct cause of changes in arsenic levels.

Research Question: Removing arsenic from the body

Ann Chang's picture

Posted on behalf of Dartmouth College researchers. 

Take a look at the research question below. Is this an important topic to you? Why or why not? Other ideas about this topic?

Proposed Research Question: What are effective ways to help people with celiac disease get the nutrients they need to efficiently remove arsenic from their body?

If arsenic levels are higher in people with celiac disease, this topic will help us understand how can we help decrease these levels while maintaining a gluten free diet.

Pregnancy and Arsenic Exposure

Anna Romans's picture

I'd like to know what the safe amount of arsenic exposure is during pregnancy. Are women with celiac more at risk of pregnancy complications due to the high amount of gluten free rice products they consume? If yes, how much higher is the risk? Perhaps a prospective study using dietary questionnaires comparing celiac vs non- celiac pregnant women could provide data on the different levels of exposure. Urine or blood samples could also be collected from the two populations to see how much more arsenic celiac women are being exposed to. Outcomes could then be observed and compared. There are likely many other relevant questions here but I'm currently pregnant and don't want to read too much literature about this.

During my first trimester all I ate was rice cereal, rice crackers, rice noodle bowls, etc. as it was the only thing that sounded good. Then I recalled hearing about arsenic in rice products, read what I could online, and quickly tried to cut out nearly all rice products from my diet. Based on loose recommendations I found online I decided to reduce my rice consumtion to 1-2 servings per week. It's put a lot of extra stress on me to find alternative products and meals. Being strictly gluten free and pregnant comes with enough dietary restrictions and removing rice has made it much more of a challenge. It's a small price to pay if it makes a difference but I really don't know if what I'm doing is necessary or not.