A research study analyzed the data from more than 130 countries to understand the link between rice and obesity. Contrary to the common belief that “eating more rice will make you fat”, eating more rice may prevent obesity.
It may sound unbelievable but controlling a few factors may make it happen for real.
Obesity is one of the major health concerns worldwide. Its rate is rapidly increasing and its incidence is high in almost all parts of the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 39.8% of the US population is obese. But this rate is much lower in Japan where only 4.3% is obese, as per World Health Organization (WHO) report.
This varied ratio arises a question that what causes such a variation in one same thing. For a start, consider rice as a factor.
In general, the average food intake of a US adult is so much different to a resident of any other part of the world. One interesting thing to add here is that some cuisines have with low obesity rates even with high use of rice in it.
To study this connection between rice and obesity in detail, researchers from Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts, Japan carried out a study. The findings of this study are presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO2019) in Glasgow, United Kingdom.
The large-scale rice consumption study
To study rice as a risk factor for obesity, the scientists collected data from 136 countries. All of these countries had at least 150 grams of rice consumption per day yet the obesity rates were much lower than countries where people consume around 14 grams of rice per day.
Next was to find all possible variables that may affect this unclear relation of rice and obesity. Some of the factors include average education level, smoking, daily calorie intake, healthcare expenditure, population over 65 years of age and gross domestic product per capita.
All these variables were much lower in the countries where the consumption of rice is higher. From the collected data, it was assumed that an increase of just one-quarter of a cup of rice every day might reduce obesity by 1%.
The lower obesity rates in countries are somewhere linked to rice consumption. Because eating rice may protect against weight gain.
It is a possibility that the nutrients in whole grains like rice may induce fullness and thus prevents overeating for a person. Moreover, rice is low fat and has a relatively low postprandial blood glucose level. In a person, eating rice suppresses insulin secretion as well.
The limitations of the research
Although the scientists studied many variables in this study it is also impossible to miss some of the important variables. Also, the data used in this experiment was the country level and not a personal level. It may arise many questions such as some parts of a country has different eating habits than the whole country. Furthermore, the obesity rate in one country is not the same throughout but vary from region to region.
Another factor was BMI, which is a standard measure to check obesity. There was no check of BMI in person or as a whole for a whole population. Lastly, these findings are not yet published in a journal so there is no peer review on it.
Another big question in this study is that it didn’t study types of rice. There are so many varieties of rice available and this analysis did not consider which type of rice a population prefers to eat. This is an important factor because some varieties of rice i.e. white rice have low fiber than less processed types. The daily fiber intake of a person has a lot to do with obesity risks.
A meta-analysis published in the BMJ studied the link of white rice and type 2 diabetes. The researchers confirmed that more consumption of white rice may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Similarly, another study on Korean adults showed that white rice is strongly associated with obesity.
The question of whether rice consumption prevents obesity is highly dubious. More research is required to find the answer to this. If such an easily available food can reduce the risk of obesity, it is worth doing research. More studies adding more variables on obesity may explain obesity patterns and formulate preventive measures.