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Brown Rice Matters

September 7, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard doctors or other health authorities recommend that patients switch from white rice to brown rice. The idea is that brown rice has more nutrients and a lower impact on blood sugar than its paler counterpart. According to recent publications in the scientific literature, making such a blanket recommendation may be incomplete. It’s true that some studies do find unprocessed brown rice superior to polished white rice in terms of respective glycemic index (GI) and load (GL). But, not all brown rice is created equal. In fact, some studies have reported unexpectedly high GI and GL scores in some brown rice samples. This may explain why a recent trial published in The Journal of Nutrition did not find substantial metabolic differences in a group of 202 diabetic patients who were asked to eat either brown or white rice over a 16 week period. And, this isn’t the only surprise with regard to brown rice research.

Some natural health experts argue that germinated brown rice (GBR) is the best form to consume due to easier digestibility and higher nutrient content. Here again, the findings of several controlled experiments have been variable. Two of the three human studies determined that GBR is indeed superior to white rice in terms of managing blood glucose in diabetics and healthy adults. However, a third trial found the opposite to be true. Participants in the latter study exhibited higher body fat and hemoglobin A1c, a measure of long term blood sugar, when eating GBR as compared to white rice. Last, but not least, the September 2011 issue of the American Journal of Nutrition reports that increasing the ratio of beans to rice in a traditional Costa Rican diet “was associated with a 35% lower risk of metabolic syndrome”. In practical terms, this only required replacing one serving of rice daily with a serving of beans that are higher in fiber and protein. When analyzing all of this data, it reaffirms my conviction that an over reliance on grains can sometimes lead to unexpected consequences. The best way to avoid this is to continually seek up-to-date information from reliable sources and to test your own reaction to any given diet or food via home blood sugar testing and lab work provided by your health care team.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – A Transgressive Brown Rice Mediates Favorable Glycemic and Insulin (link)

Study 2 – Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load and Insulinemic Index of Chinese (link)

Study 3 – Substituting White Rice with Brown Rice for 16 Weeks Does Not … (link)

Study 4 – Effects of Pre-Germinated Brown Rice on Blood Glucose and (link)

Study 5 – Postprandial Blood Glucose and Insulin Responses to Pre-Germinated (link)

Study 6 – Effect of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid-Rich Germinated Brown Rice (link)

Study 7 – A Higher Ratio of Beans to White Rice is Associated With Lower (link)

The Glycemic Index and Load of Brown Rice Varies

Source: World J Gastroenterol. 2010 Oct 21;16(39):4973-9. (link)

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Posted in Diabetes, Food and Drink, Nutrition

4 Comments & Updates to “Brown Rice Matters”

  1. JP Says:

    Updated 06/01/16:


    Br J Nutr. 2014 Jan 28;111(2):310-20.

    Effects of the brown rice diet on visceral obesity and endothelial function: the BRAVO study.

    Brown rice (BR) and white rice (WR) produce different glycaemic responses and their consumption may affect the dietary management of obesity. In the present study, the effects of BR and WR on abdominal fat distribution, metabolic parameters and endothelial function were evaluated in subjects with the metabolic syndrome in a randomised cross-over fashion. In study 1, acute postprandial metabolic parameters and flow- and nitroglycerine-mediated dilation (FMD and NMD) of the brachial artery were determined in male volunteers with or without the metabolic syndrome after ingestion of either BR or WR. The increases in glucose and insulin AUC were lower after ingestion of BR than after ingestion of WR (P= 0·041 and P= 0·045, respectively). FMD values were decreased 60 min after ingestion of WR (P= 0·037 v. baseline), but the decrease was protected after ingestion of BR. In study 2, a separate cohort of male volunteers (n 27) with the metabolic syndrome was randomised into two groups with different BR and WR consumption patterns. The values of weight-based parameters were decreased after consumption of BR for 8 weeks, but returned to baseline values after a WR consumption period. Insulin resistance and total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels were reduced after consumption of BR. In conclusion, consumption of BR may be beneficial, partly owing to the lowering of glycaemic response, and may protect postprandial endothelial function in subjects with the metabolic syndrome. Long-term beneficial effects of BR on metabolic parameters and endothelial function were also observed.

    Be well!


  2. JP Says:

    Updated 01/16/17:


    Ceylon Med J. 2016 Dec 30;(61):159-162.

    Rice variety and processing: contribution to glycaemic response

    Glycaemic index (GI) of different varieties of rice (Oryza sativa L.) commonly consumed in Sri Lanka are not widely studied even though it is the staple food.

    Objectives: To determine the proximate compositions and the GI of three different rice meals, namely Bg 360 Samba (raw), Basmati At 405 (raw) and parboiled Nadu Bg 352.

    Methods: The study was a randomised cross over study using healthy volunteers (n=11). GI was determined as the ratio between the incremental areas under curve obtained for the test food and the standard glucose (WHO/FAO method). Proximate compositions were determined by standard methods.

    Results: The GI value so obtained were, 66±8 (medium GI) for Bg 360 Samba, 73±7 (high GI) for Basmati At 405 and 40±4 (low GI) for Nadu Bg 352. Parboiled variety had a significantly low GI and the lowest peak glucose concentration. Significant differences were observed in insoluble dietary fibre (IDF), total dietary fibre (TDF) and moisture contents of the rice varieties. Non significant negative correlations between IDF (r = -0.94, p = >0.05, n = 3) and TDF (r = – 0.90, p = >0.05, n = 3) and GI of the rice varieties were observed.

    Conclusions: Parboiled Nadu Bg 352 and Bg 360 Samba (raw) are of nutritional significance to individuals seeking to control the energy intake and glycaemic response.

    Be well!


  3. JP Says:

    Updated 04/22/17:


    Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2017 May;26(3):545-555.

    Effect modification of green tea on the association between rice intake and the risk of diabetes mellitus: a prospective study in Japanese men and women.

    BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Recent observational studies have suggested a positive association of white rice and protective associations of green tea and coffee with the risk of diabetes. However, none have examined the interaction between these dietary factors on the risk of diabetes. We prospectively investigated the effect modification of green tea and coffee on the association between rice and incident diabetes in elderly Japanese men and women.

    METHODS AND STUDY DESIGN: Among subjects who participated in the baseline survey (2004-2007), 11717 (91 %) subjects responded to the follow-up survey (2010-2012). By using multiple logistic regression analysis, ORs of incident diabetes were calculated according to categories of cereal food, green tea, and coffee intakes, examining also the effect modification of green tea and coffee.

    RESULTS: 464 new cases of diabetes were identified. Women, but not men, showed a positive association of rice intake (trend p=0.008) and an inverse association of green tea intake (trend p=0.02) with incident diabetes. Coffee showed no association with incident diabetes either in men or women. In the analysis stratified by green tea intake, the association between rice and diabetes disappeared among women with an intake of >=7 cups/d of green tea (interaction p=0.08).

    CONCLUSIONS: Rice intake was associated with an increased risk of diabetes only in women, and women with a higher intake of green tea had a lower risk of diabetes. A high intake of green tea may be protective against increased risk of diabetes with a higher intake of rice in women.

    Be well!


  4. JP Says:

    Updated 12/08/17:


    PLoS One. 2017 Jun 29;12(6):e0179869.

    Fiber-rich diet with brown rice improves endothelial function in type 2 diabetes mellitus: A randomized controlled trial.

    BACKGROUND & AIMS: A fiber-rich diet has a cardioprotective effect, but the mechanism for this remains unclear. We hypothesized that a fiber-rich diet with brown rice improves endothelial function in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

    METHODS: Twenty-eight patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus at a single general hospital in Japan were randomly assigned to a brown rice (n = 14) or white rice (n = 14) diet and were followed for 8 weeks. The primary outcome was changes in endothelial function determined from flow debt repayment by reactive hyperemia using strain-gauge plethysmography in the fasting state. Secondary outcomes were changes in HbA1c, postprandial glucose excursions, and markers of oxidative stress and inflammation. The area under the curve for glucose after ingesting 250 kcal of assigned rice was compared between baseline (T0) and at the end of the intervention (T1) to estimate glucose excursions in each group.

    RESULTS: Improvement in endothelial function, assessed by fasting flow debt repayment (20.4% vs. -5.8%, p = 0.004), was significantly greater in the brown rice diet group than the white rice diet group, although the between-group difference in change of fiber intake was small (5.6 g/day vs. -1.2 g/day, p<0.0001). Changes in total, HDL-, and LDL-cholesterol, and urine 8-isoprostane levels did not differ between the two groups. The high-sensitivity C-reactive protein level tended to improve in the brown rice diet group compared with the white rice diet group (0.01 μg/L vs. -0.04 μg/L, p = 0.063). The area under the curve for glucose was subtly but consistently lower in the brown rice diet group (T0: 21.4 mmol/L*h vs. 24.0 mmol/L*h, p = 0.043, T1: 20.4 mmol/L*h vs. 23.3 mmol/L*h, p = 0.046) without changes in HbA1c.

    CONCLUSIONS: Intervention with a fiber-rich diet with brown rice effectively improved endothelial function, without changes in HbA1c levels, possibly through reducing glucose excursions.

    Be well!


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