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By the year 2025, the total number of diabetics is expected to increase to beyond 380 million. In general, the global prevalence of diabetes is on an increase owing to urbanization, population growth, increasing prevalence of obesity and inactivity.

The global prevalence of diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood.

There are three types of diabetes.

  1. Type 1 or insulin-dependent diabetes – an autoimmune disease seen in young people.
  2. Type 2 or non insulin-dependent diabetes – seen in adults over 40 years of age and associated with obesity, physical inactivity and family history of diabetes.
  3. Pregnancy diabetes or gestational diabetes – seen in pregnant women and usually disappears after child delivery. Nevertheless, the affected woman has an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

The following are the most common symptoms of diabetes:

  • Polydypsia - increased thirst
  • Polyphagia – increased hunger
  • Polyuria – increased frequency of urination
  • General malaise
  • Weight loss - especially in type 1 diabetes
  • Recurrent skin and subcutaneous tissue infections

Type 2 diabetes can lead to heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, eye complications and more. There is no cure for diabetes. Treatment involves a combination of healthy diet, physical exercise and hypoglycemic medications to control blood sugar and prevent further complications. Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels is an important aspect of management especially in type 1 diabetes where the levels can vary significantly.

Brown Rice and its Health Benefits

Brown rice is unmilled or partly milled rice, produced by hand pounding using mortar and pestle or stone grinder. It is more nutritious than the white rice. All types of rice are originally brown rice before they are processed into white rice. Brown rice is rich in B1, B2, B3 and B6 vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, iron, selenium, manganese. The essential nutrients in the brown rice are removed during the processing of the rice into white rice in order to make it faster to cook and to give it a longer shelf life.
The removal of only the outermost layer (husk) of rice grains produces brown rice. When the next layers underneath the husk (the bran and the germ) are removed, the remaining starchy endosperm produces the white rice. This process strips out several of the nutrients, dietary minerals and almost all of the rice fiber. The consumption of rice bran oil had been shown to reduce plasma total cholesterol and triglyceride levels when compared to sunflower oil. In order to compensate this loss, white rice is enriched with powdered nutrients, however, this enrichment powder is lost when the rice is rinsed before cooking.

Studies had revealed that there are significant differences in nutritional value between enriched processed white rice and unenriched, unprocessed brown rice.

  • Brown rice has been shown to have 349% more fiber, 203% more Vitamin E, 219% more magnesium, 185% more B6 and 19% more protein, making it a more balanced food.
  • In addition, brown rice has a low glycemic index (55) compared to white rice’s (70). The Glycemic index (GI) is a grading indicator of foods based on their immediate effect on blood sugar levels. Low GI food plans have been found to reduce incidence of Type 2 diabetes.
  • Apart from having greater nutritional value, brown rice is also believed to be less constipating than white rice as the rice fiber is not removed. This fiber in brown rice also helps to protect against colon cancer since fiber binds to cancer-causing chemicals.
  • A naturally occurring compound, Inositol hexaphosphate, found in high-fibre foods such as brown rice has been shown to have cancer prevention properties.
  • Magnesium, another nutrient for which brown rice is an excellent source, has been shown to be beneficial in bringing down high blood pressure, improving asthma, reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke, and lowering the frequency of migraine headaches.

Role of Brown Rice in Diabetes Prevention

According to a number of studies, researchers have discovered that eating 2 or more servings of brown rice per week reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that replacing about 50 grams of white rice (equal to about one third of a daily serving) with the same amount of brown rice lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16 percent. The study also revealed that 5 or more servings of white rice per week were associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

The Black Women's Health trial, a prospective study in a cohort of U.S. black women had revealed that women who consumed foods with the highest GI values had a 23% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes over eight years of follow-up compared to those who consumed foods with the lowest GI values. The Framingham Offspring Study found that the prevalence of both insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome was significantly lower among those eating the most cereal fiber from whole grains than those eating the least.

Another study had shown that a pre-germinated brown rice diet can improve the fasting blood glucose and serum total cholesterol levels, suggesting that such diets may be beneficial to control the levels of blood glucose in type 2 diabetes. Pre-germinated brown rice is prepared by soaking brown rice kernels in water to germinate. Few other studies too had shown that consuming more white rice in the diet was associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Therefore, a self-help strategy of merely eating more brown rice and other whole grains along with adequate and regular exercise, and appropriate weight management could potentially prevent and even reverse cases of type 2 diabetes.

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