Study links eating white rice with increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th March 2012

A new study by Harvard School of Public Health, just published on, suggests that the risk of type 2 diabetes is significantly increased if white rice is eaten regularly.

The authors looked at previous studies which linked eating white rice with risk of type 2 diabetes. Their study sought to determine whether this risk is dependent on the amount of rice consumed and if the association is stronger for Asian populations, who tend to eat more white rice than Western populations.

The authors analysed the results of four studies: two in Asian countries (China and Japan) and two in Western countries (USA and Australia). All participants were diabetes free at study baseline.

White rice is the predominant type of rice eaten worldwide and has high GI values. 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 the Chinese population eating an average of four portions a day while those in the Western world eat less than five portions a week.  

A significant trend was found in both Asian and Western countries with a stronger association found amongst women than men. The results also show that the more white rice eaten, the higher the risk of type 2 diabetes: the authors estimate that the risk of type 2 diabetes is increased by 10 per cent with each increased serving of white rice (assuming 158g per serving).

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.

Australian expert says more comprehensive research is needed

Dr Bruce Neal from the University of Sydney suggests that bigger studies are needed to substantiate the research hypothesis that white rice increases the chances of getting type 2 diabetes.

Dr Neal said, “It is often difficult to quantify consumption of the dietary component of interest and collect adequate information about factors that might confound the association. Large scale studies must rely on inexact tools to measure dietary factors, and errors in measuring individual levels of consumption can be large.

“Diet related ill health is now widely believed to be the leading cause of chronic disease around the world, but definitive research that precisely and reliably defines the effects of plausible, scalable, and affordable interventions is almost completely absent.”

Dr Neal added, “Public health nutrition awaits the discovery of a model that will secure the investment needed to answer questions about the role of nutrition in health using large randomised studies. Until then, the effect of the consumption of white rice on the development of type 2 diabetes will remain unclear.”