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White rice consumption linked to high type 2 diabetes risk

Indulging in large quantities of white rice could increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, researchers have said.

A study involving more than 1.3m people from 21 countries across nearly 10 years has shown there is an association between the food and the health condition.

However, the risk of a type 2 diagnosis differed from country to country with the research team saying there was no substantial increase in Singapore, but type 2 diabetes figures were found to be prevalent in South Asian countries.

One of the researchers, Dr Gowri Kulkarni from Bengaluru, said: “South Asians are genetically more predisposed to get diabetes, so there are both lifestyle as well as biological reasons for the high diabetes incidence.

“Indians in general have poor protein intake in diet, and this has to do with available resources and choices. Most calories are from carbohydrates as they are cheap.”

Over the course of the study period, 6,129 people developed diabetes.

Participants were asked to note down how much rice they consumed. People from South Asia were found to eat the most, consuming 630g a day. Overall, the average white rice consumption was 128g a day among the study participants.

The researchers also discovered that high amounts of white rice, decreased the amount people ate other foods like wheat, fibre, red meat, and dairy products.

Mumbai-based nutritionist Priya Kathpal said: “I wouldn’t say every white rice-eating family would have a diabetic person in their family. A lot depends on the quantity of rice eaten, what it’s eaten with, and how frequently.

“Several patients that I’ve asked to switch to brown rice have faced difficulty, as everyone’s grown up eating white rice.

“Taste is a huge factor, and brown rice often doesn’t taste the same as white with vegetable curries and dals. Sometimes, white rice alternatives like even millets can be more expensive or not as easily available too.

The researchers are urging people from countries where large quantities of white rice are consumed to change to alternate forms of rice or introducing legumes or pulses to their diet.

The findings have been published in the Diabetes Care journal.

Editor’s note: Gro Health, a multi-award-winning behaviour change app that supports diabetes management is available in India in Indian English and Hindi. 

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