Is it Worth Switching from White Rice to Brown?


"Is it Worth Switching from White Rice to Brown?" In 2012 a meta-analysis was published tying white rice consumption to diabetes, especially in Asian countries, as I explored previously. But even in the U.S., where we eat much less, the regular consumption of white rice was associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes, though brown rice was associated with lower risk, and that was after controlling for other lifestyle and dietary factors such as smoking and exercise and meat, fruit, and vegetable consumption. They estimated that replacing even just a third of a serving per day of white rice with the same amount of brown rice might lower diabetes risk 16%. Since the meta-analysis was published in 2012, a study out of Spain suggested white rice consumption was associated with decreased diabetes risk, but it was a tiny study compared to the others, hundreds compared to hundreds of thousands of people involved. In Spain, rice is usually consumed in the form of paella, which has a spice, saffron, which may have a therapeutic potential against diabetes. And white rice consumers also ate more beans, which appear to have antidiabetic properties as well. So this gives you a sense of how difficult it is to infer cause and effect relationships from population studies, since you can’t control for everything. Yes, you can control for weight, smoking, alcohol, exercise, etc., but maybe people who are smart enough to eat brown rice are also smart enough to wear seatbelts, and bike helmets, and install smoke detectors, and forgo bungie jumping.

What we need is a way to fund randomized interventional studies, where we switch people from white rice to brown rice and see what happens. Until then the effects of the consumption of white rice on the development of type 2 diabetes will remain unclear. But we didn’t have such studies... Until now.

Overweight women were randomized into two groups, a weight-loss group with a cup of cooked white rice every day, or a cup of cooked brown for six weeks. And then the groups switched— the white rice group ate brown and vice versa. And when they were eating brown rice they got significantly MORE weight loss, particularly around the waist and hips, lower blood pressure, and less inflammation. Similar effects were found for prediabetics.

Substituting brown rice for white rice led to significantly more weight loss, more waist loss, and better blood pressures. And brown rice may not just help get rid of tummy fat, but also preserve our artery function. See high blood sugars can stiffen our arteries, cutting their ability to relax in half within an hour, whether you’re diabetic, have prediabetes, or nondiabetIc. Though for diabetics, their arteries go down and stay down. And we know that brown rice can have blood sugar lowering effects compared to white rice, so… Can switching to brown rice help preserve arterial function? In folks with metabolic syndrome, within an hour of eating about a cup of cooked white rice, we can get a drop in artery function, but not so with brown rice. Despite all the benefits of whole grain rice, Asian people often prefer white rice, considering it softer and tastier than brown.

Is it Worth Switching from White Rice to Brown?

But in a focus group of Chinese adults, only a minority had ever even tried it. Before tasting brown rice, the majority of participants considered it to be inferior to white rice in terms of taste and quality. So the researchers just served some up. And after actually tasting it and learning about it, most changed their minds.

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