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White Rice & Diabetes: Is There a Connection?

White Rice & Diabetes: Is There a Connection?

Whether you're getting takeout or stir-frying at home tonight, having your sauteed veggies over brown rice instead of white rice may help you skirt blood sugar problems.

Here's why: Research suggests that a diet high in white rice can increase blood sugar and, in turn, the risk of diabetes (type 2).

All Things Glycemic
That's exactly what happened in a 5-year Japanese study. The women in the study who ate several bowls of white rice a day were almost 1.5 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with the women who ate much less of this refined grain. It's not a stretch to imagine that white rice—which has a high glycemic index and is lacking the blood-sugar-friendly soluble fiber, vitamins, and minerals of brown rice—might cause blood sugar spikes. But it's pretty scary stuff to see the straight-line connection between white rice and the risk of diabetes in the study. (Did you know? Whole grains like brown rice help control belly fat, too.)

Moving Caveats
Interestingly, the men in the study who ate lots of white rice didn't have the same risk of diabetes as the white-rice-loving women. But the researchers think that exercise may be the key variable, and that the men's activity levels probably accounted for the difference. In fact, exercise is one way both men and women can help counter the impact that refined foods have on blood sugar. In the study, extra helpings of white rice didn't seem to increase diabetes risk nearly as much in women who exercised a bunch—about 1 hour a day.

Medically reviewed in October 2018.

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