Eating White Rice Could Increase Diabetes Risk: New Study

Eating white rice every day may raise the risk of getting diabetes – bad news for Asians who are genetically more predisposed to the disease and eat this starchy staple regularly.  The risk could be increased by as much as 10% with every daily serving of polished rice, says a new study published in the BMJ.

Research leader Dr Qi Sun, a specialist in nutrition and diabetes who is an instructor in medicine at Harvard School of Public Health, and his team studied data from four previous researches.  In each case the participants in the studies, which were carried out inChina,India, Australia, and theUS, were free from the disease at the outset, and their diet was monitored.

The team found that the people from the Asian countries ate on average about four helpings of white rice a day, while those in the western countries ate less than five a week.  Rice has a higher glycemic index than many other carbohydrate-rich foods, meaning that the blood sugar levels spike higher after eating it.  The body then compensates by secreting a large amount of insulin, the hormone that causes the sugar to be absorbed by the cells and stored.  The blood sugar levels fall again, the person begins to feel hungry, and the whole cycle begins again.  Scientists believe this cycle may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes by “wearing out” the body’s insulin response.

The team noted that the risk of diabetes seemed to increase by about 10% for every daily serving of rice eaten – so that a Chinese person eating three portions a day would have a 30% higher risk than an Australian who did not eat rice.  However, Dr Sun felt that eating large amounts of other refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pasta or even potatoes, could have the same effect.

Rice is a grass species that has been cultivated for thousands of years in water-filled paddy fields, and accounts for around one-fifth of the entire caloric intake of the human race worldwide.  By far the largest proportion is eaten in the east, where it is the staple carbohydrate, and almost all is eaten as polished or white rice, that is rice that has had the nutritionally rich germ milled away.  Brown rice, or rice that has been left with its fiber and germ intact, contains much more nutrition and is less inclined to cause blood sugar levels to spike.

Previous researches have linked high white rice consumption to a raised diabetes risk because of this cereal’s high glycemic index.  As with all cereals, eating the brown version, the cereal that has not had all its nutritional value and fiber milled away, is a much better nutritional choice.  Dr Sun suggested substituting brown rice for white rice to lower diabetes risk, but an even better choice would be to substitute a food such as beans or a vegetable for one portion of rice.  This would cut the carbohydrate being consumed and move the eater away from the carbs-insulin-carbs cycle that is implicated in type 2 diabetes.

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