White Rice Linked to Diabetes Risk. Is White Rice Bad For You?

“Is white rice bad for you?” This is one of the most commonly asked health-related questions, and below are the answers to it.

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In this article:

  1. White Rice And Its Nutritional Content
  2. White Rice and Diabetes Risk
  3. White Rice and Metabolic Syndrome
  4. White Rice and Weight Loss
  5. Rice and Arsenic
  6. Rice and Digestive Problems
  7. Is White Rice Bad For You?

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White Rice And Its Nutritional Content

Among many rice varieties, white and brown rice are the two most popular. While they have similar origins, the two differ greatly in terms of the levels of vitamins and minerals they contain.

Brown rice is the entire whole rice grain, containing the bran (high in fiber and packed with nutrients), and the endosperm (rich in carbohydrates). White rice, on the other hand, is brown rice minus the bran and germ.

White rice contains only the endosperm that is packed with carbs. It then undergoes a refining process that gives it a longer shelf life, improved taste, and enhanced cooking properties.

Studies on unenriched white rice and brown rice show that a 100-gram serving of the latter contains more nutrients than the former. Brown rice offers more health benefits as it not only contains less carbs and calories, but also two times more fiber.

It also contains greater amounts of vitamins and minerals compared to the bran- and germ-stripped white rice. Additionally, it has more essential amino acids and antioxidants, making it a great source of energy for those who follow a strict diet.

Because it loses its sources of nutrition, white rice is often considered as “empty” carbs. In many countries, including the US, however, food processors enhance it by adding nutritious B-vitamins and iron.

Both white and brown rice, however, are naturally gluten-free. This makes them an excellent source of carbs for people who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.

White Rice and Diabetes Risk

Woman taking a Test For Diabetes | White Rice Linked to Diabetes Risk. Is White Rice Bad For You? | is white rice really bad for you
A woman takes a glucose reading

Studies show that people who consume white rice the most have a higher risk of type-2 diabetes in comparison to those who eat it less. The study also showed that every serving of white rice per day increased the risk of type-2 diabetes by as much as 11 percent.

A separate study conducted in the US shows the same results, adding that those who consume brown rice have a much lower risk of type-2 diabetes.

This is mainly because of the higher glycemic index (GI) of white rice. Brown rice has a GI of 55, while white rice’s GI is at 64.

Glycemic Index Definition: Glycemic index, or simply GI, measures how quickly carbs are turned into sugars that the body can absorb into the bloodstream. A GI of 55 or less is considered low, 56 to 69 medium, and 70 to 100 high.

The same Harvard research shows foods that have a lower GI seem to be better for people who have type 2 diabetes. They cause a gradual rise in one’s blood sugar levels, as compared with foods with a higher GI that causes rapid spikes.

The body converts carbs from white rice into blood sugar more quickly than carbs from brown rice. This is one of the reasons why experts associate eating white rice with a higher type-2 diabetes risk.

Other white carbs rich in starch, such as white bread, white potatoes, and white pasta most likely have the same effect as well.

White Rice and Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors that can increase the risk for certain health conditions like type-2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Low levels of good HDL cholesterol, high fasting blood sugar, increased levels of triglycerides, high blood pressure, and a large waistline are some of these risk factors.

Unfortunately, studies also show one of the negative health effects of white rice is that it increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, especially among Asian adults. However, the direct connection between having heart conditions and eating white rice remains unclear.

What research does show, however, is that eating brown rice can lower one’s risk of heart disease by up to 21 percent. It also contains a plant compound called lignans that helps regulate blood pressure, reduce arterial stiffness, and lower the amount of fat in the blood.

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White Rice and Weight Loss

American doctor talking to senior man in surgery | White Rice Linked to Diabetes Risk. Is White Rice Bad For You? | benefits of white rice
An older man speaks with a doctor

People should always aim to maintain a healthy weight.

This is especially true for overweight individuals suffering from diabetes. They should aim to limit the number of calories they consume and replace white carbs with healthier alternatives.

While people often believe that white rice can lead to weight gain and obesity, the research on the matter is actually inconclusive. What has a more consistent body of research, however, is that eating whole grains such as brown rice does aid in weight loss and maintenance.

In some studies, researchers demonstrated how white rice leads too weight gain, obesity, and belly fat.

In other studies researchers found no connection between the two whatsoever. Other research also shows that a diet that centers around white rice even promotes weight loss.

In short, the effect of white rice on weight loss remains a debatable topic. On the other hand, research on the correlation of brown rice and its effect on one’s weight has shown more consistent results.

In many studies, brown rice helps promote weight loss because it is more nutritious. It has higher levels of dietary fiber and it also gives a healthy dose of antioxidants that help fight different types of diseases.

Rice and Arsenic

Unfortunately, rice grown in certain parts of the world is often arsenic-contaminated.

High intake of this chemical increases the risk of cancer, type-2 diabetes, and heart disease. It can also be very toxic to one’s nerves and can even affect brain function.

Compared to other food crops, the rice plant tends to accumulate more arsenic. This can be problematic in countries where the water or soil are contaminated with the chemical.

Furthermore, research shows arsenic accumulates in the bran, making brown rice more likely to contain higher levels of the chemical than white rice.

Do note, however, that there are certain varieties of rice that have lower arsenic levels. Some of these are jasmine rice, basmati rice, and Himalayan-grown rice.

Rice and Digestive Problems

Intestines with Gut Bacteria on Blackboard | White Rice Linked to Diabetes Risk. Is White Rice Bad For You? | how bad is white rice for you

A dietitian or doctor may prescribe a low-fiber diet to someone who has digestive problems. This type of diet lessens the digestive tract’s load and allows it to rest.

Often, these are temporary and used to ease the uncomfortable symptoms of diseases like Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, and other digestive disorders.

This is one of the cases where white rice’s negative health effects are turned into its health benefits. It is bland, low-fiber, and easily digestible.

Is White Rice Bad For You?

In many cases, the answer is yes. For the healthy, everyday adult, white rice tends to have more negative health effects.

Most of the time, brown rice is the better option. It has a far wider variety of vitamins, plant-based compounds, minerals, and other essential amino acids.

For people with diabetes, its lower glycemic index also means that the body converts its carbs into blood sugar more slowly.

As mentioned, however, there are some cases where white rice’s downsides actually prove to be its health benefits. Aside from its lower arsenic levels and aid in certain digestive problems, it also has other advantages.

For pregnant women, for example, enriched white rice can be beneficial as well as it contains extra folate.

A dietitian or doctor may also recommend it for those who suffer from vomiting, heartburn, or nausea while on a low-fiber diet. This is because white rice is easily digestible, helping avoid trigger the uncomfortable symptoms of the prescribed diet.

In summary, completely removing white rice from one’s diet may be extremely difficult, especially for people from Asian countries, who consume about four servings of it every day. However, unless prescribed by a dietitian or a doctor, people should limit their intake to about one to two times every week to limit its negative health effects. You can also take supplements to aid with your metabolism.

Do you have other answers to the popular question, “Is white rice bad for you?” Share them with us in the comments section below!

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