Next time you whip up some stir-fry, you may want to reach for the brown rice rather than the white variety. Doing so could reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health that was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Eating five servings of white rice each week was linked to a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes, while eating two or more servings of brown rice was linked to a lower risk of the condition. The researchers who conducted the study said that replacing 50 grams of white rice (that's one third of a typical daily serving) with an identical amount of brown rice could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16 percent.

A new study, published online in the June 14, 2010 journal of Archives of Internal Medicine, is thought to be the first to look at white and brown rice consumption as it relates to diabetes risk in Americans.

Noting that U.S. rice consumption is on the increase, Qi Sun MD, who did the research while at the Harvard School of Public health, said, "We believe replacing white rice and other refined grains with whole grains, including brown rice, would help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes."

The Benefits of Going Brown

Brown rice, like other whole grains, is more slowly absorbed into the body than white rice, explains Brian Tulloch, MD, of Park Plaza Hospital in Houston, Texas and a past president of the American Diabetes Association. "And anything that reduces the rate of absorption of sugar will reduce the big swings in blood sugar," he says. "Rapid blood sugar swings have contributed not just to our increases in weight but in our diabetes rate."

Brown rice isn't the only whole grain linked to a lower diabetes risk, of course. The study also found that replacing white carbohydrates with whole grains like barley and whole wheat was linked to a full 36 percent reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

Brown rice not only takes longer to raise the blood sugar, but it's just generally better for you, says Kent Holtorf, MD, medical director for the Holtorf  Medical Group in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

"Brown rice has so many beneficial properties," he says. "White rice is stripped of all its good properties. Anytime you eat brown instead of white, you're doing yourself a favor."   

One cup of brown rice, considered a 100 percent whole grain, contains two of the three recommended daily servings of whole grains and is made of complex carbs, according to the USA Rice Federation.  Like white rice, it's sodium and cholesterol-free, it's gluten-free, and it's the least allergenic of all the grains. Among its wonderful vitamins and minerals are folate, iron and zinc. So lose the white rice, and say hello to healthful, nutty-flavored, nutrient-loaded brown rice.



"White Rice, Brown Rice, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in US Men and Women." By Qi Sun; Donna Spiegelman; Rob M. van Dam; Michelle D. Holmes; Vasanti S. Malik; Walter C. Willett; Frank B. Hu. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2010;170 (11): 961-969.