Diabetes Health

White Rice May Raise Risk for Diabetes

One way to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes may be to switch from white rice to brown rice. According to a recent study, the more white rice you eat, the more you increase your chances of developing diabetes, especially if you're a woman.

Photo of bowls of white rice

Harvard researchers looked at four previous studies on diabetes and diet and found a strong tie between eating white rice and type 2 diabetes. The link was stronger in women than in men.

The studies were conducted in the U.S., Australia, China, and Japan and surveyed the eating habits and health of more than 350,000 people over a span of four to 22 years. None of the participants had diabetes at the start of the studies.

More rice, greater impact

The researchers found that the more white rice a person ate, the greater his or her risk for diabetes. For example, for each 6-ounce serving of white rice, the risk for diabetes increased by 10 percent.

White rice is the main type of rice eaten worldwide. But it scores high on the glycemic index. Eating a lot of foods with a high glycemic index boosts your risk for type 2 diabetes.

White rice also has lower amounts of fiber, magnesium, and vitamins than brown rice. Some of these nutrients help lower a person's risk for diabetes.

Missing nutrients

"These findings are very significant," says dietitian Karen Congro, R.D., at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. "When you eat white rice often, you are missing an opportunity to have fiber in your diet. You are also missing a variety of vitamins that are stripped away in the process of making white rice."

In addition to brown rice, whole grains, including barley or quinoa, are healthier options.

Although the study, published in the journal BMJ, did find a link between white rice consumption and diabetes, it did not prove that white rice causes it.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics - Rethink Rice

American Medical Association - White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in U.S. Men and Women

Micronutrient Initiative - General Questions on Rice

May 2012

Nutrient-Rich Rice

Rice has a number of nutritional benefits. It has protein, essential B vitamins, and, depending on the type of rice, fiber, and vitamin E.

Rice also contains thiamine, niacin, and iron, but the qualities of these nutrients often are reduced when it's milled to become white rice. So U.S. rice producers add nutrients to rice by applying a coating of thiamine, niacin, and iron. To keep as much of these nutrients as possible, don't rinse white rice either before or after cooking.

Brown rice is the entire grain with only the inedible outer husk removed. Because of this, brown rice has more nutrients than white rice. One important nutrient is selenium, which strengthens the immune system. One cup of cooked brown rice provides 3.5 grams of fiber, a healthy percentage of the recommended daily amount of 20 to 35 grams.

Wild rice isn't rice at all. Instead, it's the grain of an aquatic grass native to North America. Like brown rice, it's brown in color and has a chewy texture and nutty flavor. Wild rice is similar to rice in the amount of carbohydrates and fat, but it offers more protein and fiber, fewer calories - and three times the folate of brown rice.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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