Eating white rice on a regular basis may increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, according to new Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) research.

HSPH researchers from the Department of Nutrition—led by Emily Hu, research assistant, and Qi Sun, research associate—reviewed four earlier studies involving more than 352,000 people from China, Japan, the United States, and Australia who were tracked between four and 22 years. The researchers found that people who ate the most rice—three to four servings a day—were 1.5 times more likely to have diabetes than people who ate the least amount of rice. In addition, for every additional large bowl of white rice a person ate each day, the risk rose 10 percent. The link was stronger for people in Asian countries, who eat an average of three to four servings of white rice per day. People in Western countries eat, on average, one to two servings a week.

The study was published in the British Medical Journal March 15, 2012.

White rice has a high glycemic index, meaning that it can cause spikes in blood sugar. Previous research has linked high glycemic index foods with increased type 2 diabetes risk.

“People should try to make a switch from eating refined carbs like white rice and white bread to eating more whole grains,” Sun told Time magazine.

Additional HSPH authors, also from the Department of Nutrition, included An Pan, research associate, and Vasanti Malik, research fellow.

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