Harvard study: brown rice better than white?

by Eric Schroeder
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BOSTON — People who consume whole grains, including brown rice, have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who eat white rice, according to a study from researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

As part of the study, “White rice, brown rice, and risk of type 2 diabetes in U.S. men and women,” 157,463 women and 39,765 men were followed for up to 22 years, with the individuals responding to questionnaires about diet, lifestyle and health conditions every four years. The researchers found that replacing 50 grams per day of white rice with the same amount of brown rice would lower risk of type 2 diabetes by 16%, while making the same replacement with other whole grains, such as whole wheat and barley, was linked to a 36% decrease in risk.

In total, 10,507 of those studied were said to have developed type 2 diabetes during the 22-year period.

“Rice consumption in the U.S. has dramatically increased in recent decades,” said Qi Sun, lead researcher. “We believe replacing white rice and other refined grains with whole grains, including brown rice, would help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

Findings from the researchers suggested, though, that there is more to reducing diabetes risk than simply replacing white rice with brown rice or whole grains.

“Men and women who had high white rice intake were less likely to have European ancestry or to smoke and more likely to have a family history of diabetes,” the researchers said. “In addition, high white rice intake was associated with high fruit and vegetable intake and low intake of whole grains, cereal fiber and trans fat.

“In contrast, brown rice intake was not associated with ethnicity but with a more health-conscious lifestyle and dietary profile. For example, participants with higher brown rice intake were more physically active, leaner, and less likely to smoke or have a family history of diabetes and had higher intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and lower intake of red meat and trans fat.”

The National Institutes of Health supported the study.

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