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Can White Rice Up Your Chances Of Diabetes?

June 15, 2010

On Monday, a U.S.-based study linked eating white rice to higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and backed long-held claims that brown rice is healthier than white.

Harvard School of Public Health scientists found that people who ate at least five servings of white rice per week had a 17 percent greater risk of developing diabetes than those who consumed less than one serving each month.

The study found that consuming two or more servings of brown rice per week was associated with an 11 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who ate less than one serving each month.  The study examined over 197,000 adults for up to 22 years.

Patients with diabetes have high blood sugar levels, which are linked to the body’s inability to produce enough insulin to properly break down sugars and starches into glucose for energy.

“We believe replacing white rice and other refined grains with whole grains, including brown rice, would help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes,” lead author Qi Sun, of Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told AFP news.

U.S. rice consumption is increasing rapidly, although it still is lower than the consumption in Asian countries.  The researchers said that over 70 percent of the rice consumed in the U.S. is white.

According to the researchers, replacing just a third of a typical daily serving of white rice with the same amount of brown rice each day would lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16 percent.

They also discovered that if white rice was replaced with whole grains, such as barley and whole wheat, they could reduce risk of the disease by 36 percent.

“From a public health point of view, whole grains, rather than refined carbohydrates, such as white rice, should be recommended as the primary source of carbohydrates for the US population,” senior author Frank Hu told AFP.

“These findings could have even greater implications for Asian and other populations in which rice is a staple food.”

Rice loses most of its bran and germ when it is refined to produce the white variety.

Brown rice has more fiber, minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals than white rice.  It also usually does not cause blood sugar levels to spike as much as the white variety.

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