Regularly Eating White Rice Raises Diabetes Risk

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A new meta-analysis confirms that the Asian food staple is correlated with type 2 diabetes, even in Western countries like the U.S.

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PROBLEM: The amount of white rice consumed worldwide varies widely, with Asians eating an average of four portions a day and Westerners eating less than five a week. Since this cereal grain's high glycemic index values imply heightened risk of diabetes, which populations should be worried?

METHODOLOGY: Harvard School of Public Health researchers reviewed four previous studies involving Asian (China and Japan) and Western countries (the United States and Australia) on the link between eating white rice and the risk of type 2 diabetes. They analyzed whether this risk is dependent on the amount of rice consumed and if the association is stronger for the Asian population. All of the participants were diabetes-free when their respective studies began.

RESULTS: The more white rice a person eats, regardless of his country, the higher his risk of type 2 diabetes. The authors estimate that the odds increase by 10 percent with each additional serving. Interestingly, this association was stronger among women than men.

CONCLUSION: Regular consumption of white rice raises the risk of type 2 diabetes.

IMPLICATION: White rice lacks nutrients found in brown rice that may lower risk of diabetes, including fiber and magnesium. The authors recommend eating whole grains instead of refined carbohydrates to help slow down the global diabetes epidemic.

SOURCE: The full study, "White Rice Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review" (PDF), is published in the British Medical Journal.

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Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

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