Now a new study from researchers at Harvard reports that Americans who eat two or more servings of brown rice a week reduce their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by about 10 percent compared to people who eat it less than once a month. And those who eat white rice on a regular basis — five or more times a week — are almost 20 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who eat it less than once a month.
Just replacing a third of a serving of white rice with brown each day could reduce one’s risk of Type 2 diabetes by 16 percent, a statistical analysis showed. A serving is a cup of cooked rice.
The study, which used data from two Harvard nurses’ health studies and a separate study of health professionals, isn’t the first to point a finger at foods like white rice as a culprit in Type 2 diabetes. A 2007 study of Chinese women in Shanghai found that middle-aged women who ate large amounts of white rice and other refined carbohydrates were also at increased risk for diabetes compared to their peers who ate less.
But the Harvard study is one of the first to distinguish between brown rice and white rice consumption in the United States, where rice is not a staple food and relatively little is eaten overall, said Dr. Qi Sun, an instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which is affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Many food studies simply lump brown and white rice together.
“The bottom line is we showed evidence that increased consumption of white rice – even at this low level of intake — is still associated with increased risk,” said Dr. Sun, who was at the Harvard School of Public Health when the study was done. “It’s really recommended to replace white rice with the same amount of brown rice or other whole grains.”