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Too Much White Rice May Be Bad For You

Bowl of Rice, China, Asia
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Angelo Cavalli
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People who eat large quantities of white rice are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, new research suggests. According to research recently published in the BMJ, scientists have found a link between high rice consumption and adult onset diabetes, which can be especially problematic for ethnic groups that rely heavily on this food source.

Scientists from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health, made the connection when performing a meta-analysis and review of data for a cohort study designed to establish associations between risk for adult onset diabetes and white rice consumption.

To find the answer, Qi Sun, Emily Hu and their colleagues systematically reviewed data from trials involving 352,384 participants residing in the United States, Australia, China and Japan who were followed from four to twenty-two years to get information on incidents of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Their review of the literature produced 13,284 incidents of the disease, which showed that Asian populations were more likely to consume large amounts of rice compared to the Western countries that were studied.  

The investigators also found a correlation between the type 2 diabetes and white rice consumption. Each serving of white rice per day increased the risk of diabetes by 11% in the overall population i.e. the more rice eaten, the greater the risk for diabetes.

Some folks might find it shocking that white rice is linked to diabetes, but it makes sense if you stop to think about it. Diabetes is caused by an inablity to synthesize insulin; insulin is crucial to cellular glucose uptake; high amounts of sugar in the bloodstream cause insulin levels to spike. White rice is a starchy sugar. Therefore when people eat large quantities of white rice, they're eating a lot of sugar which over time can lead to diabetes.

Just as potatoes are a staple in American households, white rice is a staple in China and Japan. Potatoes also increase the amount of sugar in the blood because it is also a starchy food, many diabetics tend to avoid potatoes for this very reason.

Qi Sun's study is relevant to the US because rice is becoming an important part of the American diet - European Americans, African Americans and Asian Americans consume white rice. Thus it's important to be aware of its potential effects on diabetes numbers in this country

In fact, Qi Sun and colleagues concluded that: "...the dose-response relations indicate that even for Western populations with typically low intake levels, relatively high white rice consumption may still modestly increase risk of diabetes."

Does the Harvard study mean that you should cut white rice from your diet? Not necessarily. White rice can be eaten in moderation. Alternatives to white rice also exist i.e. brown rice, and whole grains which will increase the amount of dietary fiber while reducing the amount of starch dumped into the bloodstream. 

It's hard to get people to change their dietary habits, but when they're presented with the facts, they can make more informed decisions about things that affect their health and well-being.


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Article Source  

Hu, E., Pan, A., Malik, V., & Sun, Q. (2012). White rice consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis and systematic review BMJ, 344 (mar15 3) DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e1454


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