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Eating more brown rice may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, study finds

June 14, 2010 |  1:01 pm

Brown rice has long been perceived as more healthful when compared to the white variety. Now a study backs up those claims, finding that those who eat more brown rice could be at lower risk for type 2 diabetes.

Ijy9eqnc The study, released Monday in Archives of Internal Medicine, examined data from three prospective cohort studies involving 39,765 men and 157,463 women. Study participants were asked about lifestyle habits and chronic diseases throughout the years of the studies. Overall, eating more white rice -- five or more servings per week -- was associated with a 17% increased risk of developing diabetes, compared with those who ate less than one serving per month. Eating two or more servings of brown rice per week was linked with an 11% decreased risk of developing the disease, compared with eating less than one serving a month.

The brown rice advantage was seen after researchers adjusted for age, plus lifestyle and dietary risk factors. Because some cultures have diets heavy on rice, the study authors also looked at data on white study participants only, and found similar associations.

White rice, when it goes through a refining process, loses most of its bran and germ, the greatest sources of fiber and nutrients. Brown rice, considered a whole grain, leaves the bran and germ intact.

Men and women who ate more white rice were also less likely to have European ancestry, and more apt to have a family history of diabetes. This group was also associated with a diet high in fruits and vegetables, but low in whole grains and cereal fiber.

Brown rice eaters were more likely to be physically active, leaner, and less likely to smoke or have a family history of diabetes. They also ate a lot of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, but less red meat and trans fats.

Researchers speculate that based on the study findings, eating 50 grams (about 1.8 ounces, or a third of a serving) of brown rice a day instead of white rice could be associated with a 16% decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Similarly, replacing white rice with whole grains in general could up that risk reduction to 36%.

The study was supported by research grants from the National Institutes of Health. Lead author Dr. Qi Sun of the Harvard School of Public Health is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship from Unilever Corporate Research.

-- Jeannine Stein

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Photo: Eating more white rice may be associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Photo credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times