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Eating rice boosts diabetes type 2 risk - Study

Editor's note:  Be aware that white wheat flour, which is much more commonly used than rice in the U.S., can be worse than write rice.  The overwhelming majority of Americans do not eat rice or use rice as the main staple, but they have high risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Why?  Studies suggest that if you want to cut diabetes risk, avoid sugar and a high fat diet!

By Maria Cendejas

A new study from Harvard School of Public Health shows that eating white rice regularly may increase risk for developing type 2 diabetes mellitus, according to CBS.

Harvard researchers analyzed four earlier studies on white rice use that involved more than 352,000 people from China, Japan, United States, and Australia, who didn’t have diabetes at baseline. The researchers found that after follow-up periods that ranged from 4 to 22 years almost 13,400 people had type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Men and women who ate the most rice were 1.5 times more likely to have diabetes than those who ate the least amount of rice.

"This applies for both Asian and Western cultures, although due to findings suggesting that the more rice eaten the higher the risk, it is thought that Asian countries are at a higher risk," the researchers said.

The study was published in the March 15 issue of the British Medical Journal.  In China, people eat about of four servings of white rice per day while those in Western countries eat fewer than five servings a week.

Study author Dr. Qi Sun, a diabetes researcher at Harvard School of Public Health, said that eating white rice could cause a sudden spike in blood sugar, because white rice is rapidly converted to sugar and it could mean a person get's hungry sooner than if they ate a low-sugar food like porridge. This effect could lead to people overeating, another risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus.

White rice also doesn't contain as many nutrients as brown rice, which is packed in fiber, magnesium and vitamins. The researchers said not getting enough of these nutrients could contribute to type 2 diabetes risk.

People who eat lots of rice aren't the only ones at risk. Sun said starchy carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta and white potatoes likely have the same effect if eaten enough.

Other experts, like Dr. Tracy Breen, director of diabetes care for North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y, downplayed the study, saying other factors might raise a person's diabetes risk more than white rice.

"It is never just one thing, It's what you eat, what you do, and your genes. We can't change our genes, so it's important to think about how food plays into our culture," Breen told WebMD.

Last year a study found rice may contain dangerous levels of an animal carcinogen called arsenic, which can cause cancer in extremely high doses.

Studies have linked arsenic with increased risk of diabetes type 2.  D. Jovanovic of Institute of Public Health of Serbia "Dr Milan Jovanovic Batut" in Serbia reported in the Feb 10, 2012 issue of International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health that low levels of arsenic in drinking water were correlated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Could arsenic in rice be the contributor for the increase in the risk?

An estimated 26 million Americans live with type 2 diabetes mellitus, which has no cure.  Diabetes type 2 can lead to serious health complications.