Rice & Diabetes: The Link You Don’t Know About

Brown and White Rice

Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest-growing health problems in Americans of all ages.

Now studies are showing that people who eat more white rice are at increased type 2 diabetes risk, and those who eat more brown rice have less risk.

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Diabetes 101

Diabetes is marked by unusually high levels of blood sugar. The sugar is normally converted into energy with help from the hormone insulin. Diabetes occurs when the body can’t properly produce or use insulin.

Type 2 diabetes heightens the risk for various health conditions, including coronary artery disease, stroke, nerve damage and kidney and eye disease.

Being overweight or inactive boosts diabetes risk. So does a family history of diabetes, being older and of certain ethnicities.

Earlier studies have already hinted that increased consumption of refined carbohydrates, including sugary foods and white breads, might also raise the risk, and now research suggests that whole-grain foods like brown rice could reduce the likelihood of diabetes.

Why White Rice?

To create white rice, brown rice must be milled and polished, which removes most of its vitamins and minerals. Milling also strips away most of its fiber – a compound that might help to deter diabetes by slowing the rush of glucose into the bloodstream.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health analyzed rice consumption and diabetes risk among nearly 200,000 people who had participated in three large studies of nurses and other health professionals. Every 2-4 years, the participants completed questionnaires about their diet, lifestyle and health conditions. During 14 to 22 years of follow-up, about 5,500 cases of type 2 diabetes were diagnosed among participants.

Frequently eating white rice increased the risk of type 2 diabetes, the researchers found. Those who reported eating at least five weekly servings of white rice had a 17% higher risk than those who ate less than one serving per month.

In contrast, those eating at least two weekly servings of brown rice had an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those eating less than one serving per month.

The findings held even after scientists adjusted for several factors that might influence the results, including age, weight and family history of diabetes.

What Does This Mean For You?

The researchers calculated that replacing just one-third of a typical daily serving of white rice with the same amount of brown rice might reduce the type 2 diabetes risk by 16%.

The same replacement with other whole grains, such as whole wheat and barley, could lead to a 36% reduced risk, the scientists estimated.

“Rice consumption in the U.S. has dramatically increased in recent decades,” says lead author Qi Sun, M.D., Sc.D., of the HSPH. “We believe replacing white rice and other refined grains with whole grains, including brown rice, would help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.”


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Drink Juice, Lose Weight

kale juice
Drinking at least one glass of low sodium vegetable juice every day may help overweight dieters lose more weight.

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In a study, adults who drank at least 8 ounces of vegetable juice as part of a calorie-controlled heart-healthy diet lost 4 pounds over 12 weeks, while those who followed the same diet but did not drink the veggie juice lost only 1 pound.

It’s possible that vegetable juice helps reduce a person’s appetite. There is also a long-term belief that a high fruit and vegetable diet is associated with lower body weight.

All 81 participants in the study, almost three-quarters of whom were women, had metabolic syndrome – a cluster of risk factors including excess body fat around the middle, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol. It’s estimated that 47 million Americans have some combination of these risk factors, placing them at increased risk diabetes and heart disease.

All of the study subjects were encouraged to follow the American Heart Association’s “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” or DASH, diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, fiber, minerals and low-fat dairy products and low in saturated fat and salt. In addition, they were randomly assigned to drink 0, 1, or 2 cups of low sodium, high potassium vegetable juice every day for 12 weeks.

The vegetable juice drinkers — in addition to losing more weight over 12 weeks than the non-juice drinkers — were also more likely to get the recommended 3 to 5 servings of vegetables daily.

Vegetable juice drinkers also significantly increased their intake of vitamin C and potassium, while decreasing their overall carbohydrate intake.

Diet and body weight are key modifiable factors in changing the course of metabolic syndrome. Most U.S. adults don’t get the recommended servings of vegetables each day. Vegetable juice is a very good, portable option and may be a good way to help close the gap.