Healthy living

White rice may increase the risk of diabetes

White rice may increase the risk of diabetes Higher consumption ups risk

Regularly eating white rice may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a study has found.

For every 158g (5.6oz) serving of white rice, the risk of type 2 diabetes is increased by 11 per cent, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health said.

White rice is the most common type of rice eaten worldwide. It also has a high glycaemic index (GI), and is quickly digested and turned into sugar by the body. Previous studies have linked high GI food diets to the development of the disease.

In the study, published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers analysed data from four studies: two from Asian countries (China and Japan) and two from Western ones (the US and Australia), to find whether white rice consumption affected the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The average amount of rice eaten varies considerably between Western and Asian countries. Chinese people eat an average of four portions of white rice daily, while those in Western countries eat less than five portions a week.

The study found a strong link between white rice consumption and type 2 diabetes; the more white rice eaten, the higher the risk of the disease.

Compared with brown rice, white rice has less fibre, magnesium and vitamins, some of which are linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The lower level of nutrients in white rice may contribute to the development of the disease, the researchers suggested.

"Higher white rice intake is associated with a significantly elevated risk of type 2 diabetes," the researchers wrote, and recommended eating whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates such as white rice.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Bruce Neal from the University of Sydney said bigger studies were needed to confirm the findings.

Around 2.5 million people in the UK have diabetes, and an estimated 850,000 people have the disease but don't know it, as early symptoms can be vague and are often ignored.

Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK, said: "Previous research in this area has not provided conclusive results and it is a difficult area to conduct research, because no single type of food is directly linked or associated with the development of Type 2 diabetes. So this study does not provide any strong evidence that eating lots of white rice will put people at increased risk of type 2 diabetes."

This article was published on Fri 16 March 2012

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