Among rice lovers, people who eat brown rice or other whole grains have a lower risk of developing diabetes than those who eat white rice.
Type 2 diabetes is characterised by high blood sugar levels caused by the body’s inability to process sugar properly.
The illness can sometimes be controlled through diet and exercise but may also require drugs.
People should pay special attention to their carbohydrate intake and try to replace refined carbohydrates, including white rice, with whole grains.
To assess the association between rice intake and diabetes risk, researchers analysed the diet, lifestyle and disease status of 39,765 men and 157,463 women from America, from three long-running studies of doctors and nurses. Altogether, 10,507 of them developed type 2 diabetes during follow up of almost 22 years.
Across all three studies, having more white rice in the diet was found to be associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
When the researchers took into account various diet and lifestyle factors that might influence the results, those who ate the most white rice (at least 5 servings per week) had a significant 17 percent higher risk of developing diabetes than those who ate the least white rice (less than 1 serving a month).
In contrast, eating 2 or more servings of brown rice each week, as opposed to less than 1 serving a month, was associated with an 11 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Again, this was after accounting for other diet and lifestyle factors that might influence the results.
The researchers estimate that replacing one third of a serving of white rice daily (about 50 grams) with the same amount of brown rice could lower a person’s risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 16 percent.
They further estimate that replacing white rice with whole grains as a group could be associated with a risk reduction as great as 36 percent.
It’s important to note that white rice contributed less than 2 percent of total calories for study participants; brown rice less than 1 percent.
Given that rice was not a significant part of the diet, there could be other reasons for the findings. It’s also possible that eating more brown rice is a marker for a healthier lifestyle.