Replacing white rice with brown rice or other whole grains may reduce diabetes risk

In a new study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that eating five or more servings of white rice per week was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, eating two or more servings of brown rice per week was associated with a lower risk of the disease. The researchers estimated that replacing 50 grams of white rice (just one third of a typical daily serving) with the same amount of brown rice would lower risk of type 2 diabetes by 16%. The same replacement with other whole grains, such as whole wheat and barley, was associated with a 36% reduced risk.

The study is the first to specifically examine white rice and brown rice in relation to among Americans, said Qi Sun, who did the research while at HSPH and is now an instructor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "Rice consumption in the U.S. has dramatically increased in recent decades. We believe replacing white rice and other refined grains with , including brown rice, would help lower the risk of ," said Sun.

The study appears online June 14, 2010, on the website of the journal .

Brown rice is superior to white rice when it comes to fiber content, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals, and it often does not generate as large an increase in blood sugar levels after a meal. Milling and polishing brown rice removes most vitamins and minerals. In addition, milling strips away most of its fiber, which helps deter diabetes by slowing the rush of sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream.

The researchers, led by Sun, and senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at HSPH, examined white and brown rice consumption in relation to type 2 diabetes risk in 157,463 women and 39,765 men participating in the Brigham and Women's Hospital-based Nurses' Health Study I and II and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The researchers analyzed responses to questionnaires about diet, lifestyle, and health conditions which participants completed every four years. They documented 5,500 cases of type 2 diabetes during 22 years of follow-up in NHS 1 participants, 2,359 cases over 14 years in NHS II participants, and 2,648 cases over 20 years in HPFS participants.

Sun and his colleagues found that the biggest consumers of white rice were less likely to have European ancestry or to smoke and more likely to have a family history of diabetes. Eating brown rice was not associated with ethnicity but with a more health-conscious diet and lifestyle. In the analysis, researchers adjusted for a variety of factors that could influence the results, including age, body mass index, smoking status, alcohol intake, family history of diabetes, and other dietary habits, and found that the trend of increased risk associated with high white rice consumption remained. Because ethnicity was associated with both white rice consumption and diabetes risk, the researchers conducted a secondary analysis of white participants only and found similar results.

Because brown rice consumption was low in the study population, the researchers could not determine whether brown rice intake at much higher levels was associated with a further reduction in diabetes risk. Substitution of other whole grains for white rice was more strongly associated with lowering diabetes risk. This observation, said the researchers, may result from more reliable estimates based on participants' higher consumption of whole grains other than .

The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released by the U.S. government, identifies grains, including rice, as one of the primary sources of carbohydrates and recommends that at least half come from whole grains. Americans are eating more rice — but it's mostly white. "From a public health point of view, whole grains, rather than refined carbohydrates, such as white rice, should be recommended as the primary source of carbohydrates for the U.S. population," said Hu, "These findings could have even greater implications for Asian and other populations in which rice is a staple food."

More information: "White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women," Qi Sun, Donna Spiegelman, Rob M. van Dam, Michelle D. Holmes, Vasanti S. Malik, Walter C. Willett, Frank B. Hu, Archives of Internal Medicine, online June 14, 2010. (Arch Intern Med. 2010;170[11]:961-969.)
Citation: Replacing white rice with brown rice or other whole grains may reduce diabetes risk (2010, June 14) retrieved 25 April 2019 from
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Jun 14, 2010
replacing white rice with brown rice may increase obesity due to binging on big macs triggered by switching from white rice to brown rice.

Jun 14, 2010
I don't understand why people prefer white rice to brown - to me brown rice has a nicer texture and tastes better. Wild rice, which I like also, I can understand since it's "tougher" and flavor can be called "gamier".

As to binging on Big Macs, yeah that's my favorite fast food.

I have maybe 2-3 of those sandwiches per year.

And yeah, I prefer white bread over whole wheat even though the latter is "healthier".

Jun 14, 2010
ur actually right about the brown. i prefer it too on most foods. only time white is good is when you don't wanna taste it (like a neutral carb base for all the saucy dishes). respect for the 2-3 sandwiches per year. those things should be outlawed, as they're pure trash for the body. I was just bein' a jackass ;D

Jun 15, 2010
Brown rice is always good and taste better. The reason why people don't really eat it because its EXPENSIVE. Go to your store and check the price of white rice against borwn rice.

Jun 15, 2010
I think another big aversion to brown rice is that it takes so long to cook. Why cook your own food when you can get it frozen or buy a box of stuff that looks like rice and cook it in a minute or less?

I could also apply the same reasoning to things like Big Macs. Who has the time to cook real food these days - just grab a Big Mac.

IMHO, if you want to be healthy, you have to cook your own food. I have been doing that for years and in most cases, I would not trade what I cook for some bland and overprice restaurant food that is nowhere near as nutritious or flavorful.

And yes, I love all varieties of brown rice - short, medium, long grain, basmati - even though it takes much longer to cook.

Jun 15, 2010
I don't understand why people prefer white rice to brown - to me brown rice has a nicer texture and tastes better.

To some others it likely doesn't. That's how taste works ;).

Jun 15, 2010
Brown rice is always good and taste better. The reason why people don't really eat it because its EXPENSIVE. Go to your store and check the price of white rice against borwn rice.

If you think about it, it's a case of highway robbery. It is really ridiculous that you have to pay MORE to get rice husked in one single step. Brown rice should be CHEAPER than white rice, with the latter has to go through extra steps of polishings, coating with "vitamins" and other additives to make it look nice, white and shinny. It is really ridiculous that you have to pay MORE while the miller has to do LESS. Apparently, adding artificial garbage to make white rice is cheaper than leaving the bran on the rice. You work out the ethics and the mindset of the marketers.

Jun 15, 2010
Interesting I can buy a large bag of brown rice for the same price as white rice at asian markets. Regular supermarket charges more - perhaps because they can. Economics: limited demand, more expensive to divert production, sort & stock on shelves.

Now the best way to cook rice is with:

(drum roll please)

A rice cooker.

example at Amazon:

Idiot proof (mostly). Add x cups of rice, fill water to the line, plug it in and push the button. When the button pops off, it's done. Simple device, when the water boils off, the pot heats up and thermostat shuts off. Perfect rice, not mushy or watery.

Order of magnitude better than "minute rice" for any type of rice, wild, brown or white rice.

Restaurant food - oversalted, too fatty, and you never know where the food has been. I prefer to eat at home. But a change of pace is nice so occasional eat out. Some people eat out all the time though.

Jun 16, 2010
The Authors have not considered converted(parboiled) Rice which provides the same benefits as Brown Rice, but much easier to prepare. I would think it would be easier to get people to convert (no pun intended) to this product if they are use to White Rice!!

Jun 16, 2010
Parboiled rice is brown rice that has been parboiled or steamed for a set period of time, ie partially cooked, so the cooking time is shorter. But with automatic rice cookers (buy from Asian makers, such as Tiger brand - they know better how to cook rice properly - no offense intended) it is a set and forget procedure that give unfailing results in 25-30 min. So, there is no real advantage to pay more for parboiled rice. To save 10 minutes you have rice that has mushier texture than to brown rice cooked from cold start.

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