Rice –Diabetes Risk Factor

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A study links rice as a risk factor for the cause of diabetes.


  • A study indicates that the high consumption of white rice regularly is linked with an increased risk of diabetes.
  • The study was conducted on 1,32,373 individuals from 21 countries over 9.5 years.
  • During the period of research 6,129 individuals developed diabetes.
  • The highest risk of diabetes is seen in South Asia which has the highest consumption of white rice per person per day.
  • In South Asia, the highest consumption of white rice is at 630 grams a day followed by Southeast Asia 239 gm per day and China 200gm per day.
  • The observations were collaboratively done by the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study anchored by the Population Health Research Institution (PHRI), McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada and Hamilton Health Sciences.
  • This is the largest study on the intake of white rice and its link with diabetes.
  • This is also the first research done across different countries.
  • The study confirms that white rice intake is the major contributor to the diabetes epidemic in South Asia.
  • The study shows that excess rice consumption leads to postprandial glucose spikes. This leads to compensatory hyperinsulinemia which is excess secretion of insulin to maintain euglycemia, normal blood sugar levels.
  • The study indicates that over the time the b-cells become exhausted leading to their failure and diabetes.
  • The study is inconclusive on the rice-diabetes link in China as a different variety of rice is consumed in China. The rice there is sticky and the consumption of rice with vegetables, pulses and meat blunts the Glycemic Load (GL) of rice.
  • The study recommends not to stop eating white rice but to make it 20-30% of meal a day instead of 70-80% of meal a day.
  • The researchers recommend replacing rice with proteins, salads and vegetables, and healthy fats from nuts and seeds.

Other Factors

  • The study acknowledges the role of other factors that causes diabetes.
  • Some of the factors are reduced physical activity, an increase in obesity rates, and high consumption of carbohydrates, family history and other diabetogenic factors.

Diabetes in India

  • According to the International Diabetes Foundation Diabetes Atlas, one in six diabetic people is from India.
  • An estimated 77 million people in India are diabetic making India one among the top 10 diabetic countries.
  • According to the IDF Diabetes Atlas, while China leads the world in diabetic patients with 116 million, India is in the second position.
  • The Atlas has kept India in the second slot up to the year 2045.
  • Though to be an urban disease, in our country, the number of persons with diabetes in rural areas is also rising.
  • Also, there is a wide variance in the prevalence of the disease among states of the country.
  • While Southern India and other rich states have high prevalence, other states have low prevalence.
  • In our country, diabetes is slowly becoming an epidemic. The growing incomes, lifestyle, consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods and less physical activity are the leading causes of diabetes in the country.
  • The link between the consumption of white rice and diabetes is suspected and the new study has confirmed the same.


Rice is a staple food in India. Avoiding it right away is not a solution. As the study says, reducing its intake will help in avoiding diabetes.

Based on the study, the government should rethink its approach to prevent diabetes in the country. The non-communicable disease is an economic burden on the country. There is a need for a national policy for the prevention of diabetes as the disease is becoming an epidemic.

A multi-dimensional approach in the form of health education, generating awareness at the school level, promoting physical activities, awareness on eating healthy, urban planning and more can go a long way in preventing the disease. This, along with augmenting the public health care system to treat diabetes will help the country tackle the epidemic.

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