April 10, 2002 -- Diabetics may have a new weapon to help them lower their blood sugar levels. Rice bran was able to lower blood glucose by up to 30% in a small group of patients with type 1 or 2 diabetes participating in a pilot study.
Researchers report that one out of four diabetics taking part in the 57-subject study were able to reduce their daily injection of insulin or medication dosages after adding stabilized rice bran to their diets for just two months. The findings were reported in the March issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.
"These are preliminary findings, and they need to be duplicated in a larger group of patients taking rice bran as a nutritional supplement for longer periods," says lead researcher Asaf A. Qureshi, PhD. "But in this study, rice bran proved to be very good at lowering blood glucose levels."
Qureshi and colleagues at Advanced Medical Research in Madison, Wis., also found that patients with elevated cholesterol who consumed 20 grams per day of stabilized rice bran lowered their total serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels between 5% and 15%.
The rice bran formulations evaluated by the researchers are manufactured by the California nutraceutical company NutraStar Inc. In company literature, rice bran is touted as "the most nutritious food on earth," and NutraStar markets its four rice bran products for a host of conditions including arthritis, constipation, and joint problems.
But the diabetes research is the first human trial to offer scientific evidence of rice bran's benefit. Studies have shown that eating a high-fiber diet lowers blood sugar levels, but the water-soluble rice bran that worked best in the study was not high in fiber.
Nutritionist Barbara Levine, RD, PhD, agrees that larger trials are needed to confirm the study's findings. But she says that the promising early findings are intriguing. Levine is director of the Human Nutrition Program at New York's Rockefeller University.
Levine cited findings from the ongoing Framingham Heart Study showing that obese people with type 2 diabetes have a 99% chance of developing heart disease. The CDC now estimates that 35 million Americans have diabetes.
"Right now there is very little out there for diabetics, other than medication," she says. "There is an epidemic of diabetes in this country, and it is largely linked to the epidemic of obesity. The most important thing diabetics can do is keep their weight under control and eat appropriate foods. But if soluble rice bran can help, I'm all for it."