Eating more white rice may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, especially for Asian populations, Qi Sun, PhD, of Harvard and colleagues reported in the British Medical Journal.  Patients who ate the greatest amounts of the grain had a 27% greater risk of developing the disease than those who ate the least, and the relative risk was higher among Asian patients.

"Although rice has been a staple food in Asian populations for thousands of years, this transition [to more sedentary lifestyles and greater availability of food] may render Asian populations more susceptible to the adverse effects of high intakes of white rice, as well as other sources of refined carbohydrates, such as pastries, white bread, and sugar sweetened beverages," they wrote.

The glycemic index of white rice is higher than that of other whole grains, largely due to processing. It's also the primary contributor to dietary glycemic load for populations that consume rice as a staple food, such as Asians.   Sun and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of four prospective cohort analyses in Asian and Western populations, totaling 352,384 patients with follow-up ranging from 4 to 22 years.

Overall, Sun and colleagues found a positive association between white rice intake and type 2 diabetes, which was stronger in Asian populations.   Asians with the highest intake had a 55% greater risk of diabetes than Asian patients who ate the least rice.   The risk was also heightened in Western populations, but the confidence interval was not significant..

In secondary analyses, the association appeared to be more pronounced in women than in men, they added.

They cautioned, however, that the meta-analysis was limited by the observational nature of the included studies and by their reliance on food frequency questionnaires to assess dietary intake. Also, they did not analyze consumption of brown rice, since only one of the four studies examined this food.

In an accompanying editorial, Bruce Neal, MD, of the University of Sydney in Australia, cautioned that the "interpretation of the observed association, and, in particular, determination of the likelihood of causality, are problematic."   Neal warned that the highest and lowest levels of rice intake varied greatly between studies, and that what's really needed is a "more sophisticated analysis based on primary rather than summary data."    Hopefully, we will have better research tools in the future to better assess dietary factors.

Sources:

Hu EA, et al "White rice consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis and systematic review" BMJ 2012; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e1454.
Neal B "White rice and risk of type 2 diabetes" BMJ 2012; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e2021.

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Comments

In the first place, being from Asia, i was quiet skeptic about this, but it did a bit of research and found something on WHO database the number of people carrying diabetes(Region wise) by the year 2000: 1.South-East Asia Region : 46,903,000 2.European Region : 33,332,000 3.Region of the Americas : 33,016,000 Surely i am off to white rice now !...Thanks Sharon

White rice has a lower content of nutrients than brown rice including fibre, magnesium and vitamins, some of which are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The authors report, therefore, that a high consumption of white rice may lead to increased risk because of the low intake of these nutrients.

White rice contains a lot of calories indeed! I wouldn't recommend it if you want to keep a healthy diet plan.

I totally agree with this, it took me awhile to work out but my blood sugar soared after eating white rice. I always thought white rice was good for you. Yes, but not great if your a Diabetic.

ouch... the seemingly innocent rice grain... wonder what out daily diet will look like in 50 years from now, considering the acquisition of this type of knowledge. makes you think...

Sensational article. I told about it many friends. I paste a link to it on my website and translate entry to the Polish. Thank you.

Thanks, I was just doing some research on eating rice in Asia and found this, very useful and I am sure I will refer to it in the future

A very interesting article and a very interesting study. Many Asian cultures have been models of longevity; and even possessing vigor into "old age"; is that starting to change? If so, is it due to; as suggested here; more abundance of food; or to more abundance of processed foods? Both? I love rice and I eat it almost every day; at least four or five days a week; usually as part of a vegetable stew; or with fish or chicken and vegetables; but I almost always eat brown rice; I prefer the flavor. I'd be most interested in seeing a similar study concerning brown rice. BTW; I'm a healthy male of 54 years of age; with no history or symptoms of diabetes. Thanks for this information.

What a pity, I LOVE eating rice... I should be careful after knowing this with the amount of white rice that I eat. Thanks for sharing! Patricia.

This is a very sad fact to us Asians :( I'm quite sure that some of the old folks back home will disagree with this. Anyway, a fact is a fact.

We must eat rice that is organic because now a days rice are compose of many chemical substance that can harm our body. Thanks for your post.

The percentage of diabetes in South India is said to be more than that of North. Mostly this is because, the main food in South is rice and that too two times a day. Also there is more affinity towards sour foods.

Is really good. I love your website! Thank you so much for sharing and imparting.

This is really informative, I never knew that eating more of white rice can cause type 2 diabetes. Please keep it up.

White rice is a simple carbohydrate, and whilst it is better for you than pasta, brown rice is a complex carbohydrate and is therefore much better at regulating blood sugar due to it's slow release. This article doesn't surprise me at all - excellent that the message is getting out

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