White rice and diabetes risk
White rice is regularly consumed not only in Asia but also in the United States. White rice eaters might consider a substitution for the staple. According to a new study published by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, regular consumption of white rice significantly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. They published their study on March 15 in the British Medical Journal.
The authors reviewed the results of four previous studies: two in Asian nations (China and Japan) and two in Western nations (United States and Australia). White rice is not only the predominant type of rice eaten throughout the globe but also has a high glycemic index (GI). The GI ranks foods according to the amount that they increase an individual's blood sugar level. Foods with a high GI (generally, 70 or above) are rapidly digested and rapidly absorbed; as a result, they cause a surge in blood sugar levels.
High GI foods are a problem for diabetics and individuals with cardiovascular disease; they are deemed less healthy than low GI foods, which have proven health benefits.
The average amount of rice consumption varies widely between Asian and Western nations. The Chinese consume an average of four portions a day; in contrast, Westerners consume less than five portions per week. The researchers noted that compared with brown rice, white rice has a lower content of many nutrients including fiber, magnesium, and vitamins, some of which, particularly fiber and magnesium, are thought to protect against diabetes.
The researchers followed 350,000 individuals for 22 years. At baseline, all the subjects had no evidence of type 2 diabetes. During the follow-up period, more than 13,000 developed type 2 diabetes. The investigators took into account a variety of factors, including diet, weight, and lifestyle. In both Asian and Western nations, the investigators found a significant trend for type 2 diabetes with increased white rice consumption. In addition, the association was stronger in women than in men. The researchers estimated that the risk of type 2 diabetes was increased by 10% with each increased serving of white rice (assuming a 6 ounce serving).
The authors concluded: “Higher white rice intake is associated with a significantly elevated risk of type 2 diabetes.” Their finding suggested that, although increased consumption was related to increased risk for both Asians and Westerners, the risk might be higher for Asians. They recommended that, instead of eating white rice one should consume more whole grains.
Take home message:
White rice is brown rice that has its hull removed. Brown rice is more nutritious and less rapidly absorbed because of its hull. The hull slows absorption; thus, producing less of a spike in blood sugar. The hull also contains fiber, B-complex vitamins, magnesium, manganese, thiamine, and zinc. Thus, brown rice is a much more appropriate component of a healthy diet. Other foods with a high glycemic index are white bread, many pastas, and breakfast cereals, particularly those with added sugar. Foods with a low GI include most fruits and vegetables, legumes, intact grains, nuts, fructose, kidney beans, beets, and chick peas.
Reference: British Medical Journal