White rice might be pleasing to the palate, but it significantly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes when eaten regularly.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health study who analysed previous studies found a linkage between consumption of white rice by the Asian population and type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease in which there are high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. It is also the commonest form of this condition.
The authors analysed the results of four studies: two in Asian (China and Japan) and two in Western countries (US and Australia). All participants were diabetes free at study baseline, reports the British Medical Journal.
White rice is the predominant type of rice eaten worldwide and has high Glycemic Index (GI) values. High GI diets are tied with a greater risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a Harvard statement.
GI indicates how fast and how high a particular food can raise our blood glucose (blood sugar) level. A food with a low GI will typically prompt a moderate rise in blood glucose while a food with a high GI may cause our blood glucose level to increase above the optimal level.
The average amount of rice eaten varies widely between Western and Asian countries, with the Chinese population eating an average of four portions a day while those in the Western world eat less than five portions a week.
The results also show that the more white rice eaten, the higher the risk of type 2 diabetes: the authors estimate that the risk of type 2 diabetes is increased by 10 percent with each increased serving of white rice (assuming 158 grams per serving).
White rice has a lower content of nutrients than brown rice, including fibre, magnesium and vitamins, some of which are associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The authors report, therefore, that a high consumption of white rice may lead to increased risk because of the low intake of these nutrients.