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Are You Protecting Yourself From Arsenic in Your Food and Water?

Are you Protecting yourself from Arsenic in Your Food and Water?


Arsenic is the “king of poisons” and the “poison of kings.” Throughout history, Machiavellian villains carried out assassinations for personal gain using this odorless, tasteless, and perfect poison. Other than the cases when arsenic was used for nefarious purposes, in the past, authorities thought arsenic was primarily a health concern in work environments where arsenic is mined or used to produce pesticides and other products. Thankfully, they eventually realized arsenic is a significant public health concern for everyone. Over time, industries have reduced the use of arsenic via more stringent precautions and policies, but, unfortunately, exposure to arsenic is still a significant and dangerous public health concern today because arsenic is quite persistent in the environment. While many arsenic-containing pesticides, such as lead arsenate, were banned decades ago, the lead and arsenic sprayed on orchard fields back in the early 1900s are still present in the soil to this day; and infiltrate our current water and food supplies.1 Most people know arsenic is a poison, but few realize they could be consuming arsenic every day during breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Common foods that may contain a significant amount of arsenic include rice and fruit juices. According to an analysis published in 2017, those on a gluten-free diet consumed more arsenic than others since gluten-free products often include rice as an ingredient in place of wheat and other gluten-containing grains. Urine samples from those on a gluten-free diet had nearly twice as much arsenic when compared to urine samples from those who eat gluten.2 Fruit juices are a significant source of arsenic exposure due to the use of pesticides, contaminated water, and other factors. According to an article published by Consumer Reports in 2019, almost half of all fruit juices tested in the United States had concerning amounts of arsenic and other heavy metals.3 Other sources of arsenic exposure include tap water, well water, bottled water, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, cigarette smoke, air pollution, cosmetics, wood preservatives, automobile batteries, lead alloys, asphalt, certain pigments used in glassmaking, as well as products used in the electronics, copper smelting, and optical industries.

Arsenic, being quite common in our environment, is currently the NUMBER ONE toxic substance on the Priority List of Hazardous Substances, which is managed by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). This list includes substances that pose the most significant threat to human health due to toxicity and the potential for human exposure.1

Although the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared the threshold level of inorganic arsenic in drinking water as 10 μg per liter, much higher concentrations have been documented in several places, including India, the United States of America, Canada, China, and many other countries.

We know large doses of arsenic are deadly, but how toxic are small, daily doses of arsenic?

The International Agency of Research on Cancer has declared arsenic as a class I human carcinogen since exposure to arsenic is associated with skin, kidney, liver, prostate, lung, testicular, and many other types of cancer.4,5 Epidemiological analysis also suggests that in a population exposed to low to moderate arsenic levels through food and water, higher arsenic exposure is significantly associated with the development of diabetes.6 In fact, individuals above the 75th percentile of arsenic exposure, defined as a urinary arsenic level above 7.2 micrograms per gram creatinine, were estimated to be twice as likely to develop diabetes as individuals in the lowest 25th percentile of exposure, equivalent to a urinary arsenic level below 2.9 micrograms per gram creatinine.7 In addition to cancer and diabetes, chronic exposure to even low amounts of arsenic increases the risk of developing COPD, heart disease, stroke, memory decline, shingles, respiratory and GI irritation, a low white blood cell count, anemia, birth defects, anxiety, depression, gout, skin discoloration, neuropathy, and other health concerns.4,8,9,10,11,12

While it may be difficult to avoid exposure to arsenic, preventive treatment options could help minimize the potential health-related consequences. For example, Ashwagandha, a relaxing and restorative adaptogen prescribed for more than 3000 years in Ayurvedic medicine, appears to be an antidote for arsenic toxicity.13,14,15

One animal study assessed the beneficial effects of Ashwagandha on arsenic-induced testicular toxicity, which could contribute to the development of both infertility and testicular cancer. According to the study, exposure to arsenic caused decreased sperm counts, reduced sperm motility, degeneration of sperm morphology, increased levels of luteinizing hormone, and a complete arrest of the spermatogenetic stages. These significant changes essentially rendered the animals infertile. However, after administration of Ashwagandha, there was a significant reversal in all parameters and the spermatogenetic stages normalized. Thus, the investigators concluded Ashwagandha maintains the cellular integrity and normal function of testicular cells, even during a significant exposure to toxic arsenic.16

Several clinical studies confirm the safety of Ashwagandha, and a recent review of the toxicity studies on Ashwagandha confirms no reported toxicity or side effects to date. Therefore, Ashwagandha is considered safe for use in human beings for the treatment of acute and chronic disease states.17 Additional animal studies suggest Ashwagandha also offers anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immunomodulatory, neuro-regenerative, nootropic, neuroprotective, liver-protective, heart-protective, kidney-protective, cholesterol-lowering, blood-sugar modulating, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral benefits.15

Ashwagandha is included in the Flavo PlexC™, Adapt™, and Thyro-Dyne™ formulations from Interplexus.

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  1. Yosim A, Bailey K, Fry R. Arsenic: "King of poisons" in food and water. American Scientist. Published January 2015. Accessed February 22, 2022.

  2. Bulka CM, Davis MA, Karagas MR, et al. The Unintended Consequences of a Gluten-free Diet. Epidemiology. 2017;28(3):e24-e25. doi:10.1097/EDE.0000000000000640

  3. Branch J. Most Baby Foods contain arsenic, lead, and other heavy metals, study finds. Consumer Reports. Accessed February 22, 2022.

  4. Medda N, De SK, Maiti S. Different mechanisms of arsenic related signaling in cellular proliferation, apoptosis and neo-plastic transformation. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2021;208:111752. doi: 10.1016/j.ecoenv.2020.111752

  5. DuMond JW Jr, Singh KP. Gene expression changes and induction of cell proliferation by chronic exposure to arsenic of mouse testicular Leydig cells. J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2007;70(13):1150-4. doi: 10.1080/15287390701252758

  6. Grau-Perez M, Kuo CC, Gribble MO, et al. Association of Low-Moderate Arsenic Exposure and Arsenic Metabolism with Incident Diabetes and Insulin Resistance in the Strong Heart Family Study. Environ Health Perspect. 2017;125(12):127004. doi:10.1289/EHP2566

  7. Seltenrich N. Arsenic and Diabetes: Assessing Risk at Low-to-Moderate Exposures. Environ Health Perspect. 2018;126(4):044002. doi:10.1289/EHP3257

  8. Huang HW, Lee CH, Yu HS. Arsenic-Induced Carcinogenesis and Immune Dysregulation. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(15):2746. doi:10.3390/ijerph16152746

  9. Cardenas A, Smit E, Houseman EA, et al. Arsenic exposure and prevalence of the varicella zoster virus in the United States: NHANES (2003-2004 and 2009-2010). Environ Health Perspect. 2015;123(6):590-596. doi:10.1289/ehp.1408731

  10. Crinnion W. Arsenic: The Underrecognized Common Disease-inducing Toxin. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2017;16(2):8-13.

  11. Avram S, Udrea AM, Negrea A, et al. Prevention of Deficit in Neuropsychiatric Disorders through Monitoring of Arsenic and Its Derivatives as Well as Through Bioinformatics and Cheminformatics. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(8):1804. doi:10.3390/ijms20081804

  12. Wu J, Chen G, Liao Y, et al. Arsenic levels in the soil and risk of birth defects: a population-based case-control study using GIS technology. J Environ Health. 2011;74(4):20-5.

  13. Sarris J, McIntyre E, Camfield DA. Plant-based medicines for anxiety disorders, part 2: a review of clinical studies with supporting preclinical evidence. CNS Drugs. 2013;27(4): 301-19. doi: 10.1007/s40263-013-0059-9

  14. Dutta R, Khalil R, Green R, et al. Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Withaferin A: Potential in Integrative Oncology. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(21):5310. doi:10.3390/ijms20215310

  15. Saleem S, Muhammad G, Hussain MA, et al. Withania somnifera: Insights into the phytochemical profile, therapeutic potential, clinical trials, and future prospective. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2020;23(12):1501-1526. doi:10.22038/IJBMS.2020.44254.10378

  16. Kumar A, Kumar R, Rahman MS, et al. Phytoremedial effect of Withania somnifera against arsenic-induced testicular toxicity in Charles Foster rats. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2015;5(4):355-364.

  17. Mandlik Ingawale DS, Namdeo AG. Pharmacological evaluation of Ashwagandha highlighting its healthcare claims, safety, and toxicity aspects. J Diet Suppl. 2021;18(2):183-226. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2020.1741484

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