Aromatic rice from Bangladesh's Sylhet region may be safer to eat than other varieties as they contain less arsenic, a study reveals.
Varieties of aromatic rice also contain higher concentrations of essential nutrients, according to researchers, whose findings have been published in Biomedical Spectroscopy and Imaging.
They estimate that a person could reduce their intake of toxic arsenic by up to almost 70 per cent and increase the intake of two essential nutrients which they mainly get from rice selenium and zinc by more than 40 per cent, if they switch to aromatic rice from the region of Sylhet.
The same varieties could be grown in other countries that have high levels of arsenic in irrigation water, says the corresponding author of the paper, Parvez Haris, head of research at the School of Allied Health Sciences at De Montfort University, United Kingdom. Around 70 million people living in Bangladesh are exposed to arsenic because of the contamination of groundwater used for drinking and irrigation.
Arsenic has been found in groundwater in the country at concentrations up to six times higher than the 50 parts per billion the WHO recommends as the maximum safe value for human consumption.
Chronic exposure to the element can cause multiple organ cancer.
Rice is highly efficient at absorbing heavy metals such as arsenic from soil and water, and is reported to be the highest arsenic-containing cereal, says Haris.