White rice linked to diabetes, claims a 21-nation study – Times of India

White rice has gained a bad reputation over the past few years. Not only has it been linked with
weight gain but also high blood sugar levels. Though there are many studies that say it’s not the case and white rice is not as bad as it’s presented to be.

A recent study done on 1,30,000 adults, over 10 years in 21 countries also shows some not so favourable results about white rice.

As per the study’s result, the consumption of white rice is linked with a high risk of
diabetes. And the risk was found to be more common among the South Asian population.

The study was done on a large scale and was an international collaboration between researchers from various countries, including China, Brazil, India, North and South America, Europe and Africa and was led by Bhavadharini Balaji of the Population Health Research Institute, Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University, Canada. The study was published in the Diabetes Care journal.

The milling and polishing process of white rice removes nutrients from it like Vitamin B and its high glycemic index leads to a spike in the blood sugar level.

An old study conducted in 2012 found that each extra serving of rice increases the risk of diabetes by 11 per cent.

However, the findings changed depending on the countries they were conducted in. A study conducted on 45,000 participants found no substantial increase in diabetes with the consumption of white rice.

To beat this barrier, the authors of the new study included 21 countries in this study.

The study

The South Asian people were found to be genetically predisposed to diabetes, due to both lifestyle and biological reasons.

To understand this data, the findings from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan were compared.


The participants in the study were aged between 35-70. Out of the 1,32,372 people, 6,129 people developed diabetes over the course of nine and a half years. The average consumption of rice was 128 mg.

However, the highest consumption of white rice was seen in South Asia at 630 grams a day, followed by South East Asia and China with 238 grams and 200 grams per day respectively.

The higher consumption of rice was linked with lower consumption of other foods like fibre, dairy products and meat.

It was also found that carbohydrates make up for nearly 80 per cent of calories consumed in many South Asian countries.

But over time carbs have become increasingly polished and refined, the process which makes them lose nutrition.

But it’s not necessary that everyone who eats white rice is prone to get diabetes. It does not just depend on the consumption but also on the quality of rice and what it is consumed with makes a difference.

China and India are the world’s two largest countries where white rice is the staple food. But the researchers have found there is no significant association between white rice consumption and diabetes in China.

This might be because of their other lifestyle factors. The sticky rice that Chinese eat could also be the reason for this difference, said researchers.

What can one do?

Studies have shown that replacing white rice with unpolished brown rice decreases the glycemic index by 23 per cent and fasting insulin response by 57 per cent overweight Asian Indians.

People who consume white rice as a staple, the risk of increased diabetes can be lowered by substituting white rice with a healthier option and also pairing it up with legumes, pulses and green vegetables.