The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes could be increased by eating white rice, research suggests.
The more white rice people eat, the higher their chance of developing the condition, according to a review of four studies involving around 350,000 people.
The U.S.-led review looked at two studies from China and Japan and two from the U.S. and Australia.
Asian people tended to have a much higher intake of the food than those in the West, averaging three to four servings a day compared with one or two servings per week.
They also had a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with those who ate most at highest risk.
Researcher Dr Qi Sun, of the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, said: ‘Each serving increment per day in white rice intake was associated with a small, yet significantly higher diabetes risk.
‘It is probably fine to occasionally eat white rice, one or two servings per week, although the consumption seen in Asian countries will increase diabetes risk substantially.’
The link might be explained by the effect of white rice on blood sugar levels, as it is relatively high on the Glycaemic Index (GI), which measures how quickly glucose is released into the bloodstream after eating. Low GI foods such as brown rice break down slowly, which makes people feel fuller longer and keeps blood sugar levels more stable
White rice also has fewer nutrients, including fibre and magnesium that may help prevent type 2 diabetes.
The review, published in the British Medical Journal, assessed a serving of rice as 158g, and took into account factors such as weight, exercise levels and diet of volunteers. During follow-up research, ranging from four to 22 years, around 13,200 people developed diabetes.
Catherine Collins, principal dietician at London’s St George’s Hospital, said increasing consumption of white rice among Asians might raise diabetes risk, but it was unlikely to be a risk transferred to the West.
This was not only because of a lower consumption in countries such as the UK, but also due to difference in diet and lifestyle.
Dr Iain Frame, director of research at Diabetes UK, said the review did not provide conclusive results.
Some 2.5million people in the UK have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and another 850,000 do not know they have it.