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White Rice or Brown?
Which is the healthier choice?

White Rice or Brown?

Millions of people around the world, eat rice daily. It's a significant source of nutrition. However, a simple change in the type of rice they're eating could make a dramatic difference in global health.

Simply switch from white rice to brown. It's may not seem like much, but little things mean a lot over time.

Here are the differences between a cup of cooked white rice and a cup of cooked brown rice.

Long-grain white rice has 205 calories, while long-grain brown rice has 216. That gives white rice a small advantage in calories.

Brown rice has 3.5 grams of fiber, while white rice has only about half a gram. Diets higher in fiber have been shown to reduce the risk of a heart attack by 40%. Brown rice also has more beneficial protein, 5 grams versus 4.3 grams; more blood pressure reducing potassium, 84 mg versus 55 mg; and more bone-building calcium, 19.5 mg versus 15.8 mg.

To see what the real benefit would be between eating one versus another, we need to see what large-scale studies show. Fortunately several have been conducted.

In 2012 a study was released that looked into 13,284 cases of type 2 diabetes among 352,384 participants. The follow-up periods ranged from 4 to 22 years. What the authors found was that, "Higher consumption of white rice is associated with a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in Asian (Chinese and Japanese) populations."

Even in the United States, where we eat much less rice per person, the authors found that, "regular consumption of white rice was associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas brown rice intake was associated with lower risk." The study authors said that replacing just one-third of a serving of white rice with brown rice daily could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16%.

Those results were confirmed a year later in another meta-analysis (a study of studies) that concluded: "Our results support public health recommendations to replace refined grains [white rice] with whole grains [brown rice] and suggest that at least two servings of whole grains per day should be consumed to reduce type 2 diabetes risk."

As powerful as the results of those studies are, they're still just observational studies. Perhaps people who decide to eat higher fiber brown rice also make other healthier decisions throughout the day, skewing the results. The best kind of test would have people eat one type of rice for a while, measure the results, then make them switch to the other type of rice and measure the results again. Fortunately, researchers have done just that.

In 2014 a study was published that looked at 40 overweight or obese women. They were randomly divided into two groups of 20. During the first phase of the trial, one group was given a brown rice diet while the other was given a white rice diet for six weeks. Then researchers waited two weeks for the effects to wash out of their systems, and they switched their diets. Everyone who ate brown rice was now on a white rice diet and vice-versa for the next six weeks.

When everything else was controlled for, researchers found that the brown rice diet could "significantly reduce weight, waist and hip circumference, Body Mass Index, diastole blood pressure and [the cardiovascular risk factor] hs-CRP." They concluded that, "Brown rice replacement in the diet may be useful to decrease inflammatory marker level and several cardiovascular risk factors among non-menopausal overweight or obese females."

Similar results were found when the test was run on people who were prediabetics. Brown rice was shown to have blood sugar-lowering effects.

Switching from white rice to brown even helped with artery function. When subjects were given white rice, they experienced a drop in artery function within an hour. (That's a bad thing. You don't want your arteries to work LESS efficiently.) That didn't happen for subjects who consumed a cup of brown rice.

The tough part is getting people to try brown rice. Most people assume since it's healthier, it must taste inferior. In fact, when a focus group of Chinese adults were given a taste of brown rice, they "expressed willingness to consume brown rice and participate in a future long-term brown rice intervention study to lower risk of diabetes."

The next time you're ordering or preparing a rice dish, try swapping out white rice for brown. You might like it, and your body will be better off because of it.

The abstracts of studies referred to in this article.

European Journal of Epidemiology 2013 Nov;28(11):84558. doi: 10.1007/s1065401398525. Epub 2013 Oct 25.
Effect of Brown Rice Consumption on Inflammatory Marker and Cardiovascular Risk Factors among Overweight and Obese Nonmenopausal Female Adults.

Clinical Nutrition ESPEN February 2013 Volume 8, Issue 1, Pages e15–e20
Effects of a whole rice diet on metabolic parameters and inflammatory markers in prediabetes

The British Journal of Nutrition 2014 Jan 28;111(2):310-20. doi: 10.1017/S0007114513002432. Epub 2013 Aug 12.
Effects of the brown rice diet on visceral obesity and endothelial function: the BRAVO study.

BMJ (Clinical research ed.) 2012 Mar 15;344:e1454. doi: 10.1136/bmj.e1454.
White rice consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis and systematic review.

European Journal of Epidemiology 2013 Nov;28(11):84558. doi: 10.1007/s1065401398525. Epub 2013 Oct 25.
Whole grain and refined grain consumption and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and doseresponse meta-analysis of cohort studies.

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