Every 158g portion increases risk by 11%, Harvard study finds
White rice link to type 2 diabetes
ABU DHABI// People who eat large amounts of white rice are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, researchers have found.
The risk increases by 11 per cent with every 158-gram portion, according to a study published in BMJ, the leading medical journal.
The findings have particular significance for the UAE because white rice is a dietary staple for many residents.
White rice is high in starch and has a high glycaemic index (GI), which means the body converts it rapidly into sugars. High GI diets are often linked to both weight increase and diabetes.
"Increasing weight is always a risk for diabetes," Dr Abdul Razaq Al Madani, head of the Emirates Diabetes Society, said yesterday.
Dr Salah Al Badawi, director of the National Project for Control of Diabetes at the Ministry of Health, said it was generally accepted that people who ate more starches were more vulnerable to diabetes.
The four Harvard researchers surveyed medical literature for evidence linking rice intake and diabetes, and pooled data from four studies with a total of 350,000 participants from China, Japan, the United States and Australia.
They found a link between white rice consumption and diabetes in all four countries, but Asians consumed more rice than westerners, and the link was stronger.
White rice is the predominant type of rice eaten worldwide .
"It's a polished rice," said Lubna Surya, a dietitian at Aster Medical Centre in Dubai. "The nutritional content is less than brown rice."
"The ultimate thing is that the amount of rice matters," Ms Surya said. Eating large amounts of white rice - a "plain carbohydrate" - is less healthy than a diet that includes some white rice and some fibre, she said.
The researchers also pointed out that white rice had a lower nutrient content than whole grains such as brown rice. In one of the studies they surveyed, substituting brown rice for white rice was associated with lower diabetes risk.
The researchers did not study whether eating white rice caused diabetes, but rather whether eating more white rice was associated with an increased risk - meaning that some other factor, such as poverty, could be involved.
People of low-socioeconomic status are at greater risk of developing diabetes and are also more likely to eat more rice, the researchers wrote.
In the UAE, socio-economic status is not significantly associated with diabetes risk, according to a small-scale Ministry of Health study of Emiratis and expatriates, Dr Al Badawi said.
"Probably the case of the UAE is different, but there is no big relation between having diabetes and the level of socio-economic status."
Weight, age and family history were more strongly associated with diabetes risk in the ministry's study, he said: "With increasing age we find more vulnerability to diabetes."