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Brown Rice, Healthy Heart


“I’ll take brown rice, please” could be an order that delivers a healthy heart. Researchers at Temple University School of Medicine report that brown rice may be a better choice over white because it has an ingredient that protects against high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

White rice is the result of the milling of brown rice, during which the kernels are stripped of the bran layer, which contains most of the nutrients. The George Mateljan Foundation notes that the milling and polishing that transforms brown rice into white destroys 67 percent of vitamin B3, 80 percent of vitamin B1, 90 of vitamin B6, 50 percent of manganese and phosphorus, virtually all of its fiber, and 100 percent of essential fatty acids. Manufacturers then must “enrich” the rice with iron and vitamins B1 and B3.

According to new research, the layer located between the white center of the grain and brown outer layer contains substances that may act against angiotensin II, a protein that is known to be associated with high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. Satoru Eguchi, associate professor of physiology, and his research team, which included colleagues from Wakayana Medical University and Nagaoka National College of Technology in Japan, note that this nutritious layer, named the subaleurone layer, is not removed from brown rice that is popular in Japan.

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Eguchi and his peers wanted to determine whether allowing the subaleurone layer to remain intact would inhibit angiotensin II, which would provide further justification—beyond the nutritional value of brown rice--for not turning brown rice into white. The team removed the subaleurone layer from a variety of brown rice (Kinmemai) and separated its different components. The components were then introduced to cultures of vascular smooth muscle cells, which are the cells that make up blood vessel walls and the ones attacked by high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.

They discovered that subaleurone components that were separated using ethyl acetate inhibited angiotensin II activity in the muscle cell cultures, which suggests that the brown rice components offer protection against high blood pressure and atherosclerosis. This finding also could be a reason why fewer people die of cardiovascular disease in Japan, where people eat rice at least once a day, than in the United States, where it is consumed less often and where white rice is more popular.

About 81 million Americans suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association, including high blood pressure (74.5 million), coronary heart disease (17.6 million), stroke (6.4 million), and heart failure (5.8 million), with some suffering from more than one form. Every 38 seconds, another American dies of cardiovascular disease. Choosing brown rice over white may be only a small step toward promoting a healthy heart, but it’s an easy, tasty step to take.

American Heart Association
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2010, April 26). Brown rice and cardiovascular protection. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com¬ /releases/2010/04/100426151625.htm
George Mateljan Foundation