LifestyleHealthMajor study done for 9.5 years confirms white rice...

Major study done for 9.5 years confirms white rice linked to diabetes in South Asia


A major study conducted over a hundred thousand participants from 21 countries, for nearly a decade, found a high risk of diabetes with the consumption of processed white rice.

This is not the first study that sought to find links to diabetes and the consumption of white rice. But this analysis is the first time researchers compared individuals from various countries including Brazil, China, India, North and South America, Africa, and Europe to conclude.

The results are quite glaring – after 132,373 individuals, aged 35 to 70 years were followed up for the analysis; 6,129 were found to have developed diabetes following the end of the observational term that is 9.5 years.

People who consumed more than 150 grams of cooked white rice a day were considered for the study. The highest consumption of rice was seen in South Asia at 650 grams daily, followed by Southeast Asia at 239 grams and in China at 200 grams per day.

The higher percentage of rice consumption in South Asian countries reflected higher chances of diabetic incidents in the region and all other regions had a ‘modest non-significant association’ in the two, the study concluded.

The higher consumption of rice also reflected a low consumption of other supplementary foods like wheat, fiber, meat, and dairy products.

The reason behind the South Asian population was found more vulnerable to incidents of diabetes, while other regions had a slick chance on the same is because of South Asian genetic predisposition, Bengaluru-based physician doctor Gauri Kulkarni told The Print.

She said the vulnerability comes from both lifestyle and genetic factors for high diabetes incidence.

There are other factors

While the study draws a stark contrast between people of the western region on the effect of white rice with that of Asian and Southeast Asian folks, there are certain catches in the outcomes.

White rice, which is a form of over-processed rice, comes with a number of essential vitamins compromised by the process of harvesting from the field until retailing.

White rice has its germ and bran removed and is polished to look appealing. But the perks of looks and longer storage life comes with compromised nutrient content.

In the last few decades, white rice has been mainstream in India, and along with an exponential spike in the consumption of highly processed carbs, the same have together become a not-so-healthy combination for populations who primarily live on white rice.

In the 2019-2020 timeframe, rice consumption in India is estimated at 102,500 metric tonnes and is by far the world’s most widely grown grain, as per Statista data.

For instance, India and China have the world’s highest consumption of white rice and both nations have the most diabetic incidents in the world.

However, it must be noted, China’s cause of diabetes cannot be significantly attached to white rice, the researchers have noted.

Studies have shown, with the fading out the preference of hand-harvested rice with that of the factory-produced variant in India, diabetes case in India has grown in both urban and rural areas.

Previously, links of diabetes and white rice consumption in research literature were contradictory. Part of the cause was because none of the studies analogies data from around the globe.

But this study – published in Diabetes Care journal in its September issue – took data from 21-nations and tallied the observations with data from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

What can be done?

As per the researchers, countries where white rice is a staple food, people must seek other alternatives to the same, in order to avoid the consequences.

Diabetes, as a chronic disease that does not necessarily mean is a consequence of lifestyle, and genetics also has its role in the ailment.

Dodging causes that taking precautions to decrease the predisposition to diabetes also inadvertently benefit from the overall health, like cutting on carbs, finding a replacement for white rice like cracked wheat, adding more legumes to diet, and more.


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