Natural health advocates have long advocated nutrient-dense whole grains over the bleached and processed kinds, like white rice and white bread. Brown rice, for example, is loaded with fiber, B vitamins, phytochemicals and other nutrients. Scientists are now documenting that it has specific disease-fighting properties, too. For example, NaturalNews recently reported on Temple University research that found a compound in brown rice which lowers blood pressure and may prevent heart attacks (White vs Brown Rice: Why is Brown Rice Healthier?). Now Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) investigators have discovered eating two or more servings of brown rice per week slashes the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“Rice consumption in the U.S. has dramatically increased in recent decades. We believe replacing white rice and other refined grains with whole grains, including brown rice, would help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes,” Qi Sun, who headed the research while at HSPH and is now an instructor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said in a statement to the media.
This is important news because a natural, self-help strategy of simply eating more brown rice and other whole grains — along with exercise and weight management — could potentially prevent and even reverse countless cases of type 2 diabetes, a condition which has reached epidemic proportions. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 6 million people in the U.S. have type 2 diabetes and another 57 million Americans have a pre-diabetic condition marked by higher than normal blood glucose levels. Type 2 diabetes can lead to heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, hearing problems, kidney damage, and more.
For the new study, which is the first to specifically investigate white rice and brown rice in relation to diabetes risk among Americans, HSPH researchers looked at white and brown rice consumption and a possible association with 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 answers to a detailed survey about diet, lifestyle, and health conditions which the study participants completed every four years.
The results, recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that simply replacing about 50 grams of white rice (equal to about one third of a typical daily serving) with the same amount of brown rice lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16 percent. What’s more, if you replace that same amount of white rice with other whole grains like whole wheat and barley, the risk of type 2 diabetes drops by a whopping 36 percent.
The study also came up with a reason to forego white rice altogether — five or more servings of white rice per week were associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. So why is brown rice so much healthier than the white kind? The Harvard researchers pointed out that brown rice is not only superior nutritionally and has far more fiber, but it doesn’t spark a large increase in blood sugar levels after a meal. On the other hand, white rice is not only stripped of most of its vitamins and minerals through milling and polishing, but it is also wiped clean of most of its fiber, and it is fiber which appears to keep diabetes at bay by slowing the rush of sugar (glucose) into the bloodstream.
S. L. Baker
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