Study: Eat White Rice, Up Your Risk Of Suffering Type 2 Diabetes

If you’re concerned about contracting type 2 diabetes, you may want to consider laying off white rice. That’s according to Harvard School of Public Health researchers, who released a study that collected data from loads of other research to posit that people whose diets rely on white rice tend to be more at risk of being diagnosed with the condition.

The analysis, released in the British Medical Journal, rounded up studies from China, Japan, Australia and the United States to come to its conclusions, the most damning of which says that each white rice serving you eat per day ups your risk by 10 percent.

Authors of the study recommend sticking with brown rice and other whole grains rather than processed white rice, which is rich in refined carbohydrates.

White rice consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis and systematic review [British Medical Journal via Nurse.com]

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  1. a354174 says:

    So if I eat 10 servings of white rice I will have a 100% chance of getting type II diabetes?

    • Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

      Nnno, statistical odds don’t work that way.

    • Cornflakes says:

      If you eat 10 servings of white rice per day then you will have a 100% greater chance (a.k.a double the chance) of someone who does not eat 10 servings of white rice per day.

      Sounds about right to me.

      Also, they need to teach statistics in school alongside the usual geometry/algebra so that these sorts of things stop happening. Politicians/”news” companies LOVE that people can’t understand this stuff.

      • QuantumCat says:

        Yeah, at the very least they need to explain that most of these studies measure *relative* risk. (Or Odds Ratios)

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        It’s so cute that you think you have to get through either geometry or algebra to graduate from high school…

        • Cornflakes says:

          It’s so cute that you think I said anything about graduating high school when all I did was mention teaching it. It’s so cute that you never say anything relevant in any conversation.

    • LanMan04 says:

      Nope, 10 servings per day would make you twice as likely to type II diabetes than had you eaten 0 servings per day.

    • Coelacanth says:

      If one’s risk of diabetes would normally be 10% (which it’s not, I’m just making up a number), and some factor increases that risk by 10%, that means one’s adjusted risk is now 11%. (Baseline * 10%).

      Using these hypothetical values, 10 cups would be 20% risk, total…

  2. Cat says:

    Take a natural product like rice or wheat, strip it of all its goodness, then add some vitamins back in.

    Sounds like a great plan.

    (Still trying hard to convince Mrs. Cat to use brown rice. But she’s Asian, and white rice is her comfort food.)

    • caradrake says:

      I’ve tried to switch, but I like how much softer white rice is and how much easier it is to chew.

      Some of the oriental places around here offer a choice of white or brown rice, which is cool. I think the rest of them will probably follow the trend within the next year or so, brown rice is becoming very popular where I am.

      • Ben says:

        Use more water when you cook the brown rice, and you’ll be fine. Brown rice is so much better than white rice! Eating white rice is like eating styrofoam.

        • Jules Noctambule says:

          I don’t care for brown rice at all, and it really aggravates my TMJ to the point where my jaw will lock up before I can finish my meal.

          • ChuckECheese says:

            I improve the nutrition of white rice by cooking it with 1/3 to 1/2 the amount of quinoa. White rice and quinoa cook at the same rate and same water ratio, and my nutritional superiority complex is sated.

      • Doubting thomas says:

        brown rice just requires a bit more liquid and a slightly longer cooking time. And like most changes it takes time to adjust. My wife forced me to switch 4 years ago and now I prefer it.

        • Cat says:

          Best I could get is that she now mixes white and brown 50-50, and cooks it with more water.

          And wild rice is totally out. If I make it, I make it for me.

        • bsh0544 says:

          In my experience a basic white rice can be on the table in ~15 minutes. Brown rice can take over an hour to get to the table. That alone tends to rule it out in my house.

          How do you cook your brown rice that it takes only a few more minutes?

          • Cor Aquilonis says:

            There’s probably parboiled brown rice in both your pantry and freezer section of your grocery, which makes it about as fast as white. You might be happily surprised.

            • ChuckECheese says:

              That stuff is convenient, but it sure is expensive – about 2 servings for $2.50 around Phoenix. That’s some expensive rice.

          • The_IT_Crone says:

            My boyfriend uses Uncle Ben’s minute brown rice. Works just fine.

            However I prefer my rice cooker. Sure it takes 40 minutes, but it is hands-off work, and makes like 8 servings then I can just nuke it for 30 seconds when I want more. And a lot cheaper than Uncle Ben’s.

            • bsh0544 says:

              I can’t stand minute white rice. It’s just a useless mush. Is minute brown rice the same way?

    • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

      Went to a Chinese restaurant in New Hampshire and they asked us of we wanted white bread or rice with our order.

    • RxDude says:

      Childhood food trauma prevents me from eating brown rice. My parents used to do some stupid diet where we had plain brown rice with damn near every meal. It tasted like cardboard.

      • ChuckECheese says:

        Brown rice in the grocery is frequently rancid, which adds to that wooden flavor. Rancidity prevention is one reason rice-eating cultures remove the bran and germ.

    • denros says:

      The kind of brown rice you buy makes a huge difference – I buy brown basmati in bulk (can probably get it at a health / natural foods section or store). Pretty much the same price, and IMHO it’s every bit as tasty as white rice.

      • ChuckECheese says:

        Try telling that to an Asian. It’s like telling an American that tomato sauce and ketchup are the same thing.

    • jenesaisrien says:

      see my reply to chatterboxwriting vis a vis Asians w/ slim build and visceral fat (Medically oriented comment not racially oriented)

  3. HomerSimpson says:

    So the general consensus is “eat (any kind of) food, you will die (from something)”…amIright?

    • Ben says:

      No, that’s just the consensus among snarky internet commenters.

      The take-home message from nutrition studies is that your diet can affect (not 100% determine) how soon you will die and your quality of life in the years before your death. People seem to forget about that last part. Quality of life before death is incredibly important.

      • RxDude says:

        No, that’s pretty much the case. Red meat will give you cancer, poultry will give you salmonella. Produce is full of pesticides and herbicides, and the stuff that isn’t will give you e. coli. Processed food with HFCS will make your pancreas explode. Artificial sweeteners give you cancer.

        Pick any category of food, and you can find an article somewhere telling you about it’s adverse effects.

        • Tyanna says:

          I gave up on food studies when I read one saying that eating broccoli can give you cancer.

          The basic take home message is that if you eat too much of ANYTHING it’s bad for you. Doesn’t matter what it is. That’s why they say you should get a well balanced diet.

  4. mauispiderweb says:

    What about Jasmine rice or Basmati rice? Same thing?

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      Yep. Though it is possible to get brown jasmine or brown basmati (hard to find if you don’t live in a city with some ethnic grocers though).

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        I eat something called brown Texmati. So good. We cook ours in the rice cooker. It takes a while but turns out perfect every time.

  5. UniversalRemonster! says:

    I’m curious if there is a higher percentage of type II diabetes in the Asian countries that consider white rice a staple of a meal when compared to America. I don’t have any factual basis, but I always assumed America had the highest percentage as we seem to have one of the highest obesity ratings of any country.

    • Ben says:

      That’s a good question. However, comparing two cultures with entirely different diets just on the basis of their white rice consumption and hoping to draw from that any kind of conclusions about that white rice is likely not to work out too well.

      • QuantumCat says:

        That’s why the association is so weak in the study–10% is really nothing much.

        It varies, but I wouldn’t consider it a big deal unless the risk was at least double.

        • amadaden says:

          I agree. Since 1)health nuts tend to substitute white rice with brown 2) the study only controls for if they eat white rice or not and 3) the increase in risk is so small. I personally consider this confirmation that white rice is harmless since this increase is likely just correlation.

          Think I’m crazy? THIS is what causation looks like.
          “Compared to nonsmokers, men who smoke are about 23 times more likely to develop lung cancer and women who smoke are about 13 times more likely.” ( http://quitsmoking.about.com/od/tobaccostatistics/a/cancerstats.htm ) Even if we stack the deck in favor of this new study, 13 vs 1.5 still looks like a joke.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      I’ve read that Asians (both east Asians and south Asians) are more prone to developing type II diabetes than white people.

    • chatterboxwriting says:

      China actually had more diabetics than the U.S. in 2003, with that number expected to more than double by 2030. Japan had less than half the number of diabetics that the U.S. had in 2003, but it is still #6 on the list of the 10 countries with the highest estimated number of cases of diabetes.

      http://www.who.int/diabetes/facts/en/diabcare0504.pdf

    • chatterboxwriting says:

      China actually had more diabetics than the U.S. in 2003, with that number expected to more than double by 2030. Japan had less than half the number of diabetics that the U.S. had in 2003, but it is still #6 on the list of the 10 countries with the highest estimated number of cases of diabetes.

      http://www.who.int/diabetes/facts/en/diabcare0504.pdf

      • Buckus says:

        The question about that, though, is do they have more diabetics because they have more people (3X more) or because of their diet? I looked at their numbers and they are absolute, not relative (per quanity unit), so they’re not really a good comparison. At the numbers only show China with an estimated 3 million more diabetics than the US, but with a population thrice as large, that’s actually healthier (in respect to diabetics) than the US.

  6. Sean says:

    I am not very good at reading medical journal articles. Did they factor out things like drinking lots of soda or eating lots of candy?

    • amadaden says:

      No. “Higher consumption of white rice is ASSOCIATED with a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in Asian (Chinese and Japanese) populations.” As I read it they are looking at the population as a whole and controlling for nothing and hoping that random chance does that for them.

      I hate studies like this. Step 1) People say X is bad for you Step 2) People who care about their health stop eating X 3)New study compares the health of people who eat X and don’t eat X and surprise surprise! People who don’t eat X are healthier then people who do. Step 4) Many “I told you so!”s follow from the health freaks who never read more then the headline.

  7. tacitus59 says:

    I was told by a person of Indian descent that in the urban areas of india are having huge problems with type ii diabetes. White rice is a simple starch so it acts like sugar almost immediately when entering the body and causes a big sugar spike. Years ago I heard a doctor talk on this subject and he said its probably not an issue if you are very lean but since most of us are not very lean it causes major problems.

  8. rpm773 says:

    Is white rice responsible for type II diabetes any more than pasta, potatoes, or white bread?

    • Hi_Hello says:

      as well as other sources of refined carbohydrates such as pastries, white bread, and sugar sweetened beverages.

  9. QuantumCat says:

    10% isn’t really a big deal–it’s saying if a normal person has a chance, X, of getting type 2 diabetes, a person who eats 1 serving of white rice per day has a chance 1.1 * X.

    Admittedly, it’s still higher, but there are so many other causal factors, it ends up being a pretty weak association.

    It’s *not* like a normal person has a 10% chance and someone who eats 3 servings has a 40% chance, though. (Making numbers up here) It would be 10% and 13% with these numbers.

  10. Hi_Hello says:

    it isn’t the rice, is the fact the people are less active and there’s more crappy food out there.

    “The recent transition in nutrition characterised by dramatically decreased physical activity levels and much improved security and variety of food has led to increased prevalence of obesity and insulin resistance in Asian countries”

  11. HogwartsProfessor says:

    Noooo, I like my Japanese sticky rice with black sesame seed and sea salt furikake!

    I don’t eat it every day. I also like the Lundberg brand brown rice. It takes a bit longer to cook but it smells and tastes great.

  12. BelleSade says:

    10%? No thanks, I don’t eat bread, pasta, etc anymore, I need one easy-and-quick-to-cook thing on my diet.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Try cooking a large batch of brown rice in a rice cooker, then freezing it in small portions. Rice freezes really well.

      • Paularado says:

        Yes, freeze it in freezer bags and squish it to about 1″ high layer. Then you can break off pieces and reheat in the microwave with a little bit of water.

  13. bhr says:

    yet again, a study (or reporting of it) without the core caveat that anything is bad if you over do it.

    If you are using white rice to substitute for breads, potatoes or other basic starches it doesn’t increase your risk (that I am aware of).

  14. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    If you’re eating white rice because you’re on a diet, you’re doing it wrong. Brown rice is better for you.

  15. dulcinea47 says:

    Correlation is not causation… I’d guess that anyone who eats a lot of any kind of non-whole-grain rice, or pasta, or bread, or etc. is at an increased risk of diabetes.

  16. chatterboxwriting says:

    Sorry to be that person, but you can’t contract diabetes. Contract, in the medical sense, means to “acquire by contagion or infection.” Diabetes is not contagious.

    • jenesaisrien says:

      OTOH, obesity HAS been found to be contagious.If friends,family and/or co workers are overweight, it apparently encourages their associates to excuse overeating, go on fast food trips, etc.
      Of note, Cauliflower shredded up, (not overcooked) makes a good mock-rice, also smashed up as a substitute for mashed pototoes- good on the starch budget esp. for those inclined to overweight or aged 30+. People of Asian descent reportedly need to maintain a lower BMI than other groups in order to prevent excess visceral fat- the one that contributes to diabetes. Apparently this applied even to those appearing slim in build….

  17. iluvhatemail says:

    ok so everything gives you cancer or diabetes now. time to ignore these studies or die of hunger

  18. rockelscorcho says:

    White rice is nearly pure carbohydrate with a very high glycemic index value above 50 (it changes depending on where you are getting the information). Brown rice, additionally, has a similar glycemic index, but also comes with protein and fiber. For many, fiber helps with lowering the rate in which the sugars are digested, thus lowering the release of insulin in the blood stream. Eat in moderation, but brown rice is better.

  19. NotEd says:

    Just a minor quibble, as far as I know one does not contract type 2 diabetes, as it is not a communicable disease. Rather you develop diabetes due to genetics and lifestyle.
    At least that how Type 1 diabetes works.

    The more you know.‚Ñ¢

  20. kataisa says:

    We often hear how healthy Asian people are because they eat rice and vegetables all of the time. If they eat so much rice how come they don’t get diabetes?

  21. skitzogreg says:
  22. blinky says:

    I’m pretty sure that white rice isn’t rich in refined carbohydrates. Maybe unrefined carbohydrates.

  23. Piddles says:

    66g of carbs per 3 oucnes. It’s like eating 2 ounces of sugar. Fun fact, brown rice is no better. I stopped eating rice a year ago and it’s totally worked out for me.

  24. amuro98 says:

    So..if this is true, why is it that diabetes was practically unknown in Asia just 50-60 years ago? And remember, many Asians eat least 2 or 3 bowls of steamed white rice a day. They eat it with practically every meal. Many don’t feel right if they eat a meal without any rice – even things like pasta

    What changed? Not the rice. Things like meat, sugar, and oil got cheaper and altered peoples’ diet around the world.

  25. Samuel H. Dighan says:

    Hah! Suck it science. I only eat fried rice which is brown! Best of all, not ALL of it is rice: I add SPAM, roast pork, carrots, ginger, onion, garlic, etc. So even LESS diabetus.

  26. Samuel H. Dighan says:

    Hah! Suck it science. I only eat fried rice which is brown! Best of all, not ALL of it is rice: I add SPAM, roast pork, carrots, ginger, onion, garlic, etc. So even LESS diabetus.

  27. Samuel H. Dighan says:

    Hah! Suck it science. I only eat fried rice which is brown! Best of all, not ALL of it is rice: I add SPAM, roast pork, carrots, ginger, onion, garlic, etc. So even LESS diabetus.

  28. Samuel H. Dighan says:

    Hah! Suck it science. I only eat fried rice which is brown! Best of all, not ALL of it is rice: I add SPAM, roast pork, carrots, ginger, onion, garlic, etc. So even LESS diabetus.

  29. Samuel H. Dighan says:

    Hah! Suck it science. I only eat fried rice which is brown! Best of all, not ALL of it is rice: I add SPAM, roast pork, carrots, ginger, onion, garlic, etc. So even LESS diabetus.

  30. Samuel H. Dighan says:

    Hah! Suck it science. I only eat fried rice which is brown! Best of all, not ALL of it is rice: I add SPAM, roast pork, carrots, ginger, onion, garlic, etc. So even LESS diabetus.

  31. LHH says:

    I don’t get this. Asian eat white rice up to 3 times a day. Yes they include veggies and some meat but the majority of their meal is white rice and they don’t have type II diabetes running amok. There has to be more to this. Maybe it’s the whole order of Kung Pao an average American eats with the white rice that might be the issue, with no exercise. Hmmm….

    • jenesaisrien says:

      Diabetes is increasing in the Asian countries as the traditional diet changes-more rice, more starches etc etc

  32. StarfishDiva says:

    Hahah, I live with Colombians, try telling THEM that. I hate rice period, but every meal my mother in law makes…… is on top of a HUGE bed of white rice. I’m already hypoglycemic, dammit…

    Oh wait, she IS trying to kill me. FINALLY, EVIDENCE!!!!!