Oat milk has become a popular alternative to cow’s milk in recent years, touted for its health benefits and creamy texture.
However, as with any food product, it’s important to be aware of potential risks and drawbacks.
One concern that has recently come to light is the presence of arsenic in some oat milk brands. While oats themselves are generally considered a healthy food, the processing and manufacturing of oat milk can lead to higher levels of this toxic substance.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the issue of arsenic in oat milk and what you need to know to make informed choices about your dairy alternatives.
Does Oat Milk Contain Arsenic?
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can be found in soil, water, and air. It’s also a known human carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer.
Recent studies have shown that rice milk, another popular dairy alternative, can contain high levels of inorganic arsenic. This is likely due to the fact that rice absorbs arsenic from the soil more readily than other crops.
But what about oat milk? While oats themselves are not typically associated with high levels of arsenic, the processing and manufacturing of oat milk can lead to increased levels of this toxic substance.
One study conducted by researchers at the University of Aberdeen in the UK found that people who drank rice milk were exposed to high levels of inorganic arsenic. While this study specifically looked at rice milk, it’s possible that similar issues could arise with other plant-based milks, including oat milk.
The problem lies in the fact that many oat milk brands use oats that have been chemically processed to turn some of their healthful, complex carbohydrates into simple sugars like maltose. This process can increase the levels of arsenic in the final product.
Additionally, some oat milk brands may contain added oils or sugars to maintain texture and viscosity. These additives can also contribute to higher levels of arsenic.
What Is Arsenic And Why Is It A Concern In Food Products?
Arsenic is a toxic element that can be found in soil, water, and air. It’s known to be harmful to humans and can cause various health problems, including cancers and neurological effects. Inorganic arsenic is particularly dangerous compared to organic arsenic, which is not related to organic farming practices.
Consuming food contaminated with arsenic can lead to adverse health effects, which vary depending on the amount consumed, length of exposure, age, and other exposures happening at the same time. Fetuses, infants, and children are particularly vulnerable to the potential harmful effects of arsenic exposure due to their smaller body sizes, metabolism, and rapid growth.
High levels of arsenic exposure during active brain development can lead to adverse neurological effects such as learning disabilities, behavior difficulties, and lowered IQ. For adults, long-term exposure to inorganic arsenic has been associated with skin disorders and increased risks for skin, bladder, and lung cancers.
It’s important to note that while meat, eggs, and dairy have very little arsenic, some plant-based foods can contain high levels of this toxic element. For example, rice milk has been found to contain high levels of inorganic arsenic due to the way rice absorbs arsenic from the soil.
How Does Arsenic Get Into Oat Milk?
Arsenic can get into oat milk through a few different pathways. First, as mentioned above, the processing and manufacturing of oat milk can lead to increased levels of arsenic. This is because the chemical processing used to turn complex carbohydrates into simple sugars can cause the oats to absorb more arsenic from the soil.
Second, some oat milk brands may contain added oils or sugars that can contribute to higher levels of arsenic. These additives may be sourced from crops that are more likely to absorb arsenic from the soil.
Finally, it’s possible that oats themselves could contain low levels of arsenic. While oats are not typically associated with high levels of this toxic substance, they are still a crop grown in soil and could potentially absorb arsenic from their environment.
It’s important to note that the levels of arsenic found in oat milk are generally still within safe limits set by regulatory agencies. However, for those who consume large amounts of oat milk or who are otherwise concerned about their exposure to arsenic, it may be worth considering alternative dairy alternatives or limiting intake of oat milk.
Which Oat Milk Brands Have Been Found To Contain Arsenic?
Several oat milk brands have been tested for arsenic levels, with varying results. Consumer Reports found that oat milks from Pacific and Rice Dream brands were right about average in terms of arsenic contamination. However, it’s important to note that there is a 15-fold difference between the highest and lowest levels of arsenic found in rice milk, suggesting that manufacturers could make low arsenic oat milk if they wanted to.
ConsumerLab has also tested several plant-based milks, including oat milk, and found that some brands, such as Oatly, contain as much as 7 grams of sugar per cup of oat milk. While this is less than the amount of sugar found in cow’s milk, it’s still a concern for those trying to limit their sugar intake.
It’s also worth noting that while oats themselves are not typically associated with high levels of arsenic, they can still contain trace amounts of the substance. This is because arsenic is naturally present in soil and water, which can be absorbed by crops.
What Are The Health Risks Of Consuming Arsenic In Oat Milk?
Consuming high levels of inorganic arsenic, such as those found in rice milk and potentially in oat milk, can have serious health consequences. Arsenic exposure has been linked to an increased risk of skin, bladder, and lung cancers in adults. For children, exposure during times of active brain development can lead to learning disabilities, behavior difficulties, and lowered IQ.
Short-term exposure to very high amounts of inorganic arsenic can result in symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bruising, and numbness or burning sensations in the hands and feet. However, the long-term effects of consuming food contaminated with arsenic vary depending on the amount consumed, length of time of exposure, age, and other exposures happening at the same time.
It’s important to note that not all oat milk brands contain high levels of arsenic. Oat and almond-based beverages have been found to be the safest for consumption. Consumers should carefully read ingredient labels and choose brands that avoid chemical processing and unnecessary additives to minimize their risk of exposure to this toxic substance.
How To Choose Safe Oat Milk Brands And Reduce Arsenic Exposure In Your Diet.
If you’re concerned about arsenic exposure in your diet, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk while still enjoying oat milk. Here are some tips for choosing safe oat milk brands:
1. Look for organic and non-GMO oat milk: Choosing organic and non-GMO oat milk can help ensure that the oats used in the product were grown without the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals.
2. Check for third-party testing: Look for oat milk brands that have been tested by third-party organizations for arsenic levels. This information should be readily available on the brand’s website or packaging.
3. Avoid oat milk with added sugars and oils: As mentioned earlier, added sugars and oils can contribute to higher levels of arsenic in oat milk. Opt for brands that don’t include these additives.
4. Consider making your own oat milk: Making your own oat milk at home is a great way to control the ingredients and ensure that you’re not exposing yourself to high levels of arsenic.
By following these tips, you can enjoy oat milk without worrying about exposure to harmful levels of arsenic. Remember to always read labels carefully and choose products that prioritize safety and transparency.