—by Jeff Jurmain, MA
A new study released last week revealed some crucial nutritional information for protecting the body from diabetes. It focuses on one of the world’s most commonly consumed foods: rice.
Researchers found that eating more white rice is linked to a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Conversely, eating more brown rice — a whole grain — may be associated with a lower risk for the disease. These findings were published in the esteemed “Archives of Internal Medicine.”
Rice has been a staple food in Asian countries for centuries. By the 20th century, grain-processing technology made large-scale production of refined grains possible. In this process, the outer bran and germ parts of rice grains are removed to produce white rice, which is mostly starch. In the United States, more than 70% of rice consumed is white, which has nowhere near the level of nutrients that whole grain rice does.
The team from Harvard School of Public Health assessed rice consumption and diabetes risk among nearly 40,000 men and 157,500 women in three large studies: the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study I and II.
After adjusting for age and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, they found the following interesting stats. People who ate five or more servings of white rice per week had a 17% increased risk of diabetes, compared to those who ate less than one serving per month. Now, those who ate two or more servings of brown rice per week had an 11% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes than those eating less than one serving a month.
Based on this, the researchers estimate that replacing 50 grams (about one-third of a serving) of white rice per day with the same amount of brown rice would give you a 16% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. As a whole, if you fully replaced white rice with brown rice, the reduced diabetes risk could be as great as 36%.
In general, white rice has a higher “glycemic index” than brown rice. Glycemic index measures how much a food raises blood sugar levels. It is likely because the structure of white rice is disrupted due to the refining process. The nutritional consequences include the loss of fiber, vitamins, magnesium and other minerals, and many natural chemicals that are believed to be protective factors for diabetes.
For the prevention of type 2 diabetes, along with a lengthy list of other health problems, it is recommended that people consume whole grain rice and avoid white rice as much as possible.