When I was a kid, knowing someone with diabetes was pretty rare. But now approximately 3.2 million people in the UK have the devastating disease. In fact, the number of people with diabetes has essentially doubled in the last two decades… and the rise doesn’t show any real signs of stopping.
I’m talking about the toxic heavy metal arsenic. The same arsenic we regularly find in well water, food, and lots of other places.
Without realising it, many of us are coming into contact with heavy metals several times a day. And there’s very good evidence that arsenic is one of the root causes of diabetes. Research has revealed that both high levels of exposure to the metal, as well as chronic low level exposures, are linked to the disease. And I’ve seen evidence of the connection between heavy metals and diabetes in my clinic, finding elevated arsenic, lead and mercury levels in a number of my own diabetic patients.
Arsenic is a known carcinogen which is most associated with bladder, lung and skin cancers. The metal has also been linked to immune deficiency, heart disease, hypertension and, as I have now revealed to you today, diabetes.
Countries with serious water contamination issues have taught us even more about the devastating effects of chronic arsenic exposure. The water supply in Bangladesh, for example, is heavily laced with the toxin, which means the people are literally drinking their way to diabetes and plenty of other health problems. A study published in 2010 in the Lancet concluded that a staggering 24 per cent of all chronic disease deaths in Bangladesh could be attributed to drinking the arsenic-contaminated well water.
Arsenic picks on your pancreas
Shockingly, arsenic appears to cause diabetes by actually destroying beta cells in the pancreas. And these arsenic-linked cases are unlike the other insulin-resistant diabetes cases that we’re used to seeing. The damage is often more severe and, even worse, reversing the disease with our typical weapons including supplements, drugs and even weight loss is difficult – and in some cases may even be impossible.
This is why limiting your exposure to arsenic in the first place is absolutely critical. And I can help you do just that by addressing the three main sources of arsenic exposure; drinking water, rice and chicken.
Avoiding a drinking water disaster
Many of us are exposed to arsenic through our own drinking water. Arsenic occurs naturally in all water sources, which means that small quantities are present in drinking water. In the UK, the amount of arsenic in tap water is miniscule. However, some private wells in the UK are not monitored and tested for arsenic and could be at risk.
If you have a well and suspect your well water is contaminated with arsenic, or tests have confirmed it, you should switch to bottled water for drinking and cooking in the short term. And then consider a reverse osmosis or distillation water filtering system to help reduce the amount of arsenic in your water. Look for one that’s been certified by NSF International (www.nsf.org), a not-for-profit organisation that tests home water treatment systems.
Rolling the dice when you eat rice
Although some arsenic occurs naturally in the soil, our food crops, rice included, are doused in pesticides and fertilisers. And they can contain a whole slew of sickening chemicals and heavy metals, including arsenic. These chemicals and metals seep into the soil and eventually our food crops absorb some of them. In addition, industrial pollution can drive up arsenic levels in the soil as well.
Thankfully, the use of arsenic in industry in the UK is declining and its use in agriculture or household pesticides has been prohibited for a considerable amount of time.
But the fact remains that rice sucks up chemicals and heavy metals, including arsenic, more readily than some other food crops, which is why a report published in 2012, in Consumer Reports magazine, found elevated levels of arsenic in rice. And a later investigation by the US FDA produced similar findings.
Unfortunately all rice, whether it’s organic or conventionally grown, contains arsenic. So we need to take matters into our own hands.
Because arsenic accumulates in rice bran and brown rice, which we tend to think of as being healthier than white rice, they actually have higher levels of arsenic in them than jasmine, basmati and pre-cooked instant rice.
Rinsing your rice before cooking it and then cooking the rice in extra water can reduce the amount of arsenic in the final dish. In fact, some research suggests that cooking your rice in a large pot of boiling water, similar to how you cook pasta, could slash arsenic levels up to 40 per cent.
But the very best way to reduce your exposure to arsenic in rice is also the most obvious, and that is to limit the amount of rice and rice products your family eats on a weekly basis. For adults, one to three servings at most is probably best, and kids should get even less.
Checking on the arsenic in your chicken
It turns out that your Sunday roast dinner could be your family’s number one source of arsenic every week.
Chicken can contain traces of arsenic, this is especially true in the US, as chicken feed can contain this heavy metal.
The reason? Well, arsenic kills parasites in chickens, encourages quicker growth and it helps to make the chicken skin pinker for a more appealing presentation at the supermarket.
Thankfully, the FDA is finally phasing out arsenic in chicken feed at the end of 2015. But in the meantime, since studies show organic chickens tend to have much lower levels of arsenic than factory farmed varieties, be sure to choose organic birds.
Ditch arsenic to drive down your diabetes risk
If you’re worried about your current arsenic levels ask your doctor about running urine and blood tests to check on the amount of the metal in your system. And if your levels are higher than you and your doctor would like, a holistic doctor trained in environmental medicine and certified in chelation can use chelation to remove the metal from your body.
They say the best defence is a good offence, and that’s true when it comes to diabetes and arsenic too. Armed with this knowledge about arsenic you can limit your exposure to this dangerous toxin and your risk of diabetes at the same time.
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Vol. 9, Issue 12, December 2015