Can high consumption of white rice be considered a nutritional risk factor for developing diabetes?

Several Asian countries are facing a worrying increase in cases of type 2 diabetes. The increase is particularly significant in urban areas in India, where the prevalence has gone from 1% in the 1970s to around 25% today. A sedentary lifestyle probably plays a role, as well as a more westernized overall diet, but rice being a staple food in these regions, the question of its implication is raised. Why now, when rice has been eaten for ages? Because “industrial” white rice (fairly high glycemic index) tends to supplant brown rice, which is much more beneficial from a nutritional standpoint.

The work done so far on the subject has produced conflicting results. A Canadian team (McMaster University) carried out a very large study, involving some 130,000 adults (30 to 70 years old) spread over five continents (21 countries). The usual daily consumption of cooked white rice has been broken down into five categories, ranging from less than 150g to over 450g. The average follow-up lasted about ten years.

According to the results, the risk of diabetes increases “slightly” in the upper range (> 450 g) compared to the lower range (<150 g). Oddly enough, as far as this part of the world is concerned, the association is evident in Southeast Asia, while it is not at all observed in China.

According to Dr. Joseph Miller from the International Journal of Medicine: “This large study suggests the existence of an association, which is not a cause and effect relationship. The relationship is strongest in Southeast Asia, while it is weak in other parts of the world and non-existent in China. While white rice may not be completely innocent, its implication remains relative.”

Betsy Wilson

A true science nerd and pediatric nursing specialist, Betsy is passionate about all things pregnancy and baby-related. She contributes her expertise to the Scientific Origin.