Update on the BMI chart & arsenic in rice.

Dr. Hyman What is at the end of your fork


In previous posts I have discussed the BMI chart, obesity & weight loss due to cancer treatments. In these posts I have stressed that everyone is an individual, unique in body type, metabolism & personality ūüôā Because of this, I have never understood why a BMI chart would be useful. According to a new study it isn’t.

I started out my August 15th, 2015, Blog post,¬†Obesity & Cancer¬†Risk¬†with the following paragraph:¬†‚ÄúObesity is a complex disorder involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn‚Äôt just a cosmetic concern. It increases your risk of diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Being extremely obese means you are especially likely to have health problems related to your weight. The good news is that even modest weight loss can improve or prevent the health problems associated with obesity. Dietary changes, increased physical activity and behavior changes can help you lose weight.‚ÄĚ ¬†Mayo Clinic.

In the same Blog post, I said that: The BMI chart doesn’t know the difference between body fat & muscle. Muscular athletes would be under the obese category. Children, pregnant women, & nursing mothers can’t use this chart either. 


An article last week, on February 8th, was published by 14U News:¬†¬†BMI PROVEN INEFFECTIVE ACCORDING TO STUDY:¬†“This is definitely some good news for people who have higher BMIs but don’t think that they are overweight, obese, or generally unhealthy. There has been a new study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles, which found that over 50 million Americans who had been labelled as overweight or obese according to the BMI (body mass index) scale actually aren’t unhealthy.¬†

Commenting on the BMI chart the article states:¬†However, this doesn’t necessarily hold up because there are people who are in excellent physical shape that have been grouped into that obese or overweight group since the reading doesn’t take muscle tone into account. It also doesn’t show that people with “healthy” BMIs could also be unhealthy.”¬†This article talks about the study & the folly of using the BMI chart to indicate “health”. It also notes that some health insurances penalize individuals based on the their BMI. In the case of a cancer patient this doesn’t take into account their treatments. For example, weight gain due to steroids & extreme weight loss due to treatment.¬†

A healthy weight should be based on other more reliable markers such as waist measurement, height, blood pressure, age, lifestyle, diseases & treatments.  

In other articles on the website World News Online,¬†BMI reports,¬†you will find the same conclusion…the study is a nail in the coffin of the BMI chart! Let’s hope so.¬†

One article on this site,¬†Goodbye to the BMI,¬†states:¬†“Using data from the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the scientists analyzed the link between BMI, which is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of the person’s height in meters, and several health markers, including blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. The results showed that more than 2 million people identified as “very obese” by virtue of having a BMI of 35 or higher are, in reality, healthy; that’s about 15% of Americans so classified. The research also revealed that more than 30% of those with BMIs in the “normal” range, about 20.7 million people, are actually unhealthy based on their other markers.

“Not only does BMI mislabel 54 million heavier individuals as unhealthy, it actually overlooks a large group of individuals considered to have a ‘healthy’ BMI who are actually unhealthy when you look at underlying clinical indicators,” said Hunger. “We used a fairly strict definition of health. You had to be at clinically healthy levels on four out of the five health indicators assessed.”

Bottom line? Throwing out the BMI chart, what weight are you most comfortable at that keeps all the indicators: blood pressure, blood sugar & cholesterol within normal limits? Add in your treatment & its side effects & re-evaluate that number on the scale with your healthcare team. What would constitute a “healthy” weight for you?



Check the Rice package for the companies name & address to find out where the rice is grown. I use Lundgren Family Farms organic rice. It is farmed in California. I trust their products. Take a look at their website after you read about arsenic in rice in this part of my post.

MedicineNet.com defines arsenic: “Arsenic: A metallic element that forms a number of poisonous compounds, arsenic is found in nature at low levels mostly in compounds with oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur. These are called inorganic arsenic compounds. Arsenic in plants and animals combines with carbon and hydrogen. This is called organic arsenic. Organic arsenic is usually less harmful than inorganic arsenic.”¬†This is a very good site if you want to know more about organic & inorganic arsenic & their health risks.¬†“Arsenic is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). Breathing inorganic arsenic increases the risk of lung cancer. Ingesting inorganic arsenic increases the risk of skin cancer and tumors of the bladder, kidney, liver, and lung.”

Arsenic Facts.¬†The information on this website is from U.S.A. Rice:¬†“America‚Äôs rice farmers and rice companies are fully committed to providing healthy and nutritious food to consumers; and although there is no scientific evidence of a public health risk as a result of the trace amounts of arsenic found in rice, we will continue to work with FDA to ensure the U.S. rice supply meets any established health standards.”

Also on this site:¬†“Is the arsenic content of U.S.-grown rice similar to that found in imported rice?:¬†The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concluded U.S.-grown rice has the lowest inorganic arsenic of all countries tested. 2¬†”¬† This is a biased site but it contains a lot of good information so don’t discount it.

This next 2014 article, ConsumerReports, How much arsenic is in your rice?  contains information regarding recommendations that were made concerning arsenic in rice consumed by children & adults. Very good read. Make sure you watch the short video. The article also has this chart showing which rice has the most arsenic in it:


Here is one more article that explains the problem & its solution.¬†From the National Institute of Environmental¬†¬†Sciences:¬†Arsenic uptake discovery could lead to safer rice:¬†¬†“An international team of researchers from China, Germany, and the United States has made a key finding in the long-standing question about how environmental arsenic ends up in grains of rice. The discovery, published in the January 2016 issue of the journal Nature Plants, may pave the way for approaches that prevent or reduce arsenic uptake, making one of the world‚Äôs major food crops safer for human consumption.¬†Arsenic in rice is a known health risk to populations that rely on the grain in their diets. Arsenic occurs naturally in the environment and is a known human carcinogen that is associated with skin, lung, bladder, kidney, and liver cancer.”¬†This article sites a¬†research¬†teams study of the pathways of arsenic into the rice¬†kernel. The study is extremely important because it can help change the ways rice is grown to reduce the uptake of arsenic in the soil.¬†

As a consumer, what should we do. First of all, let’s not panic. This is a subject that has been raised in the field of nutrition for years. Steps have been taken to reduce the arsenic in foods, especially in children’s foods. Rice is a very healthy grain, especially rice with the bran left on. Don’t stress about this. The media always plays up the negative aspects of studies. They also omit what is being done to correct the problem both by our FDA & internationally.¬†

Here are my recommendations:

  • It doesn’t change the arsenic level if you buy organic rice. Organic rice does reduce your risk from toxic sprays used on rice crops.
  • A healthy diet varies in whole grains. You wouldn’t choose rice for every meal. A varied diet of whole grains gives you a balanced intake of the nutrients you need.
  • White rice is okay occasionally, but don’ rely on it just because it has less arsenic in it. Nutritionally it is deficient.
  • Rinse rice & cook in a large amount of water. According to the Environmental Working Group, EWG.org :¬†“Rinsing rice before cooking may reduce arsenic content to some extent. Some research indicates that the amount of arsenic in rice can be cut by as much as 40 percent if the rice is boiled in a large volume of water like pasta and excess water discarded. For perfect brown rice:¬†Here’s a recipe. Cooking rice like pasta is a good option for brown rice, whose superior nutritional benefits must be balanced against higher arsenic content.¬†I have always cooked my rice this way; 1 cup of rice to 6 cups of water. Not because I thought it was better, but because no one told me how to cook it ūüôā Follow the above link for EWG’s take on this problem with arsenic in rice. Very good &¬†scientifically¬†based.
  • Check the ingredients on processed foods & limit those that have rice as an ingredient. Limit processed foods anyway!
  • Rice milk has never been a good choice. It is watery & doesn’t have the same nutritional content as nut milks. If you use rice milk, then switch to a nut milk. EWG states: “Great Britain’s Food Safety Authority¬†cautions parents to avoid rice milk as a dairy alternative for toddlers from age one to four and a half.¬†Consumer Reports¬†tested samples of two common brands of rice milk and found arsenic levels ranging from 17 to 70 parts per billion — all exceeding the federal drinking water maximum of 10 parts per billion.”

If you have any questions or concerns about the continued headlines regarding arsenic & rice email me at maryh@sdcri.org

I am sharing this link to a wonderful TED talk that Dr. Daniel Vicario, SDCRI’s Medical Director, sent me yesterday. It is profound. We take for granted our bodies ability to heal itself. This is a short video &¬†definitely¬†worth watching:¬†Intentional medicine ‚Äď shifting the focus of healthcare | Libby McGugan | TEDxGlasgow¬† …..Mary