Regular consumption of white rice significantly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to an analysis.
Researchers with the Harvard School of Public Health looked at previous studies and evidence of the association between eating white rice and the risk of type 2 diabetes. Their study sought to determine whether this risk is dependent on the amount of rice consumed and is stronger for the Asian population, which tends to eat more white rice than the western world.
The authors analyzed the results of four studies: two in Asian countries (China and Japan) and two in Western countries (the Nurses’ Health Study in the United States and a study in Australia). All participants were diabetes-free at study baseline.
White rice is the predominant type of rice eaten worldwide and has a high glycemic index value, the researchers noted. High GI diets are associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The average amount of rice eaten varies widely between western and Asian countries, with Chinese populations eating an average of four portions a day while those in the western world eat fewer than five portions a week.
A significant trend was found in both Asian and western countries, with a stronger association found among women than men. The results also showed that the more white rice eaten, the higher the risk of type 2 diabetes: The authors estimated the risk of type 2 diabetes increases by 10% with each serving per day of white rice (assuming 158 grams of rice per serving).
White rice has a lower content than brown rice of nutrients such as fiber, magnesium and vitamins, some of which are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The authors reported a high consumption of white rice may lead to an increased risk because of the low intake of these nutrients.
“Higher white rice intake is associated with a significantly elevated risk of type 2 diabetes,” the authors concluded. They said the finding applies to both Asian and western cultures, although people in Asian countries are believed to be at higher risk because of their higher levels of white rice consumption.
The authors recommend eating whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates such as white rice, an approach they hope could help slow down the global diabetes epidemic.
In an accompanying editorial, Bruce Neal, PhD, of the University of Sydney in Australia suggested more and bigger studies are needed to substantiate the research hypothesis that white rice increases the chances of getting type 2 diabetes.
To read the study in the March 15 issue of the British Medical Journal, visit http://bit.ly/w2izry.