Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Which Is Better?

Replacing White Rice With Brown Rice Reduces Risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Study Finds
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

June 14, 2010 -- Replacing white rice in your diet with brown rice may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

The finding is important because the consumption of white rice in the United States has increased dramatically in the past few decades, and about 18 million Americans have type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health say eating two or more servings of brown rice weekly seems to be associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, they report, eating five or more servings of white rice per week is associated with an increased risk.

Qi Sun, MD, now an instructor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues at Harvard estimate that replacing 50 grams daily of white rice (uncooked, equivalent to a one-third serving) with the same amount of brown rice would lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16%.

Replacing the same amount of white rice with other whole grains, such as barley and wheat, is associated with a 36% reduced risk.

The study is published in the online journal Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers say the study is the first to specifically examine white rice vs. brown rice in relation to development of type2 diabetes among Americans.

“Rice consumption in the U.S. has dramatically increased in recent decades,” Sun says in a news release. “We believe replacing white rice and other refined grains with whole grains, including brown rice, would lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

White rice is created by removing  the bran and germ portions of brown rice. The authors say that more than 70% of rice eaten in the U.S. is white.

Brown Rice Reduces Diabetes Risk

The scientists examined rice consumption and diabetes risk in 39,765 men and 157,463 women in three large studies -- the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study and the Nurses’ Health Study I and II.

They analyzed responses to questionnaires completed every four years about diet, lifestyle, and health conditions.

After adjusting for age and other lifestyle and dietary risk factors, people who consumed five or more servings of white rice per week had a 17% increased risk of diabetes, compared to people who ate less than one serving per month.

But eating two or more servings of brown rice per week was associated with an 11% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to eating less than one serving of brown rice per month.

White rice has a higher glycemic index than brown rice, the researchers say. That index is a measure of how fast a particular food raises blood glucose levels, compared with the same amount of glucose.

“The high glycemic index of white rice consumption is likely the consequence of disrupting the physical and botanical structure of rice grains during the refining process,” the authors write. “The other consequence of the refining process includes loss of fiber, vitamins, magnesium and other minerals, lignans, phytoestrogens, and phytic acid, many of which may be protective factors for diabetes risk.”

They recommend replacing white rice and other refined grains with brown rice to try to prevent type 2 diabetes.

Brown rice, the researchers say, often does not generate as fast an increase in blood sugar levels after a meal.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article