Does cutting down on white rice lower your risk of diabetes? Answer is, it may not! It really depends on what you choose to replace the rice with because researchers in Singapore have shown that those who ate less rice also ate more of everything else to maintain the same calorie intake.
Professor Rob Martinus van Dam at the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health in NUS, a co-author of the studies, said “even over a relatively wide range of rice intakes, from half a bowl to several bowls a day, we didn't see much of an increase in the risk of diabetes. However, a person who chose to eat more meat in place of the reduced rice would increase their risk. Substituting rice with whole grains, on the other hand, decreases the risk.”
“The risk of diabetes depends on what the rice is substituted with and the overall quality of a person's diet,” added Professor Koh Woon Puay of Duke-NUS Medical School, a co-author of the studies.
In their study, the professors found no link between the quantity of white rice consumed and the risk of type 2 diabetes when controlled for variables such as age, sex and body mass index (BMI), and various other food intakes.
In another study also led by Professor van Dam and Professor Koh, they measured the link between the food Singaporeans typically eat and diabetes risk. They first identified a list of 165 food items and beverages most commonly eaten in Singapore, then rated the foods and beverages according to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet index.
The study found similar results to dietary studies from other regions of the world – that foods containing whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and a moderate amount of dairy were associated with lower risks of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
While sugar-sweetened drinks, processed meat and red meat (ie. beef, pork and chicken thigh meat) were associated with higher risks of the same diseases.
However, this does not mean you have to refrain from all high-risk foods because the study showed that the proportion of each food item was found to be more important than the absolute intake. Eat in moderation and you may well keep your risk low.
In conclusion, eating more rice is not associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes in the Singapore population. Reducing white rice consumption would only be effective in lowering your risk if the substitute food is considered carefully.
Sources: The Strait Times (https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/white-rice-not-linked-to-increased-diabetes-risk-among-chinese-singaporeans-study), SInghealth (https://www.singhealth.com.sg/news/tomorrows-medicine/quality-of-overall-diet-is-key-to-lowering-type-2-diabetes-risk)
The Strait Times (https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/white-rice-not-linked-to-increased-diabetes-risk-among-chinese-singaporeans-study),
Am J Epidemiol. 2018 Dec 1;187(12) (doi: 10.1093/aje/kwy183.)
Eur J Nutr. 2018 Dec 10 (doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1879-7)