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MEDICAL researchers announced on March 15, 2012 that they discovered a “troubling link between higher consumption of white rice and Type 2 diabetes mellitus,” which is of epidemic proportion in Asia and other regions where white rice is the staple food.

The studies are also probing into the association of diets high in sugar and fats to this most common diabetes.

Worldwide, about 350 million people have Type 2 diabetes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“What we’ve found is white rice is likely to increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, especially at high consumption levels such as in Asian populations,” according to Qi Sun of the Harvard School of Public Health, who added that “the link emerged from an analysis of four previously published studies, carried out in China, Japan, Australia and the United States.”

The clinical investigations involved 350,000 people followed closely from four to 22 years, where 13,000 of them developed Type 2 diabetes.

Those studies conducted in Japan and China revealed that who ate most rice (three to four servings a day)  were had 55 percent higher risk to develop diabetes compared to those who ate least (one to two servings a week).

The part of this research performed in Australia and in the United States, where people eat less rice, the difference was 12 percent.

White rice is prepared by machines that give its polished appearance, by hulling and milling, removing the husk and leaving a grain that is primarily starch.

Brown rice, on the other hand, which does not undergo the same “treatment,” has more fiber, vitamins, magnesium and, above all, has a lower glycemic index, a measurement of sugar content.

White rice has higher glycemic index and is transformed faster to glucose, which quickly elevates the blood sugar level in the bloodstream.

This meta-analysis of four original studies needs larger studies and more clinical trials for confirmation but, according to Dr. Sun, there is a convincing “consistency across these studies, and there is biological plausibility that supports the association between white rice consumption and diabetes.”

¶ Are soft drinks harmful?

Yes, very, but in a subtle way, and the damage they cause takes time to show.

In a previous column, we condemned all soft drinks, which I called “liquid candy,” to be associated with Metabolic Syndrome among those who imbibed them.

The cluster of conditions in this syndrome includes central obesity leading to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

I have stated, and am repeating it for emphasis, that soft drinks are subtle poisons to the body, for all of us, and especially for children.

In my recently published book in the USA, Let’s Stop “Killing” Our Children, I challenge parents to dissuade their children from imbibing soft drinks, diet, light or regular, cola or uncola.

They are all unhealthy.

¶ Which food items increase the risk for diabetes?

Basically, carbohydrates, like rice, bread, candies, ice-cream, cakes and anything made of flour and starch.

Daily heavy consumption of any of these increases the risk for the development of diabetes, and among those with pre-diabetes or mild diabetics, excessive carbs can worsen the diabetes.

Fats have been implicated also as a culprit in elevating the risk for diabetes.

Eliminating white rice from the diet, which will not be easy, or eating carbs in strict moderation, will greatly in preventing diabetes.

Instead of eating two cups of cooked rice with every meal, reducing it to half cup or less twice a day, will go a long way in warding off diabetes and also aid in achieving a normal weight.

¶ Can diet and exercise along prevent diabetes?

Diet and exercise alone (without medications) can ward off and prevent diabetes.

I have known many patients with borderline diabetes (pre-diabetics) whose blood sugar and Hemoglobin A1C were effectively reduced to normal levels by simply dieting and doing daily exercises.

Some of them who were already taking medications for diabetes were able to discontinue the pills by exercising and watching the calories and type of foods they ate.

What is more interesting are those who were pre-diabetics and some actual mild diabetics were able to lower their blood sugar levels to normal by plain exercise, without altering their diet much.

This is a testament to the value of exercise in disease prevention not only for diabetes but cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer’s dementia, and even cancers.

¶ How much sugar do we consume a day?

The truth is staggering.

Whether we realize it or not, we are eating about 22 (yes 22) teaspoons of sugar a day, much much higher than the American Heart Association recommended six teaspoons (24 grams) daily for women and nine (36 grams) for men.

These sugars are derived from the various carbohydrates we eat, other sweets and desserts, and drinks we imbibe.

One fourth teaspoon of sugar is about one gram, so one teaspoon is 4 grams.

Twenty-two teaspoons is 88 grams!

A serving of food or one drink can contain as much as 16 grams of sugar, hence sugar can sneak in “unnoticed.”

Fruit drinks and alcoholic beverages provide a lot of sugar and calories.

A 12-ounce can of soft drinks has about 8 teaspoons (32 grams) of added sugar, nearly the total recommended sugar for the entire day!

Since there are 4 calories per gram, that’s 128 calories.

Beverages are the number one source of added sugars in our diet.

Except for increasing calories, added sugars have no nutritional value.

¶ What are happy foods and comfort foods?

These are the food items that we love and enjoy.

For some reason, we feel happy after eating them.

Basically, they taste sweet, like what even newborn babies savor.

Examples of these are desserts, sweets and chocolates.

Our preference for sugar is mainly due to the fact that carbohydrates stimulate the release of the feel-good chemical in the brain called serotonin.

The 40 million brain cells we each have on average are directly or indirectly influenced by serotonin, like our mood, sexual function, memory, learning, sleep, appetite and temperature regulation.

This is the feel-good hormone.

¶ Which are the better carbohydrates?

The better sources of “sugars” are carbohydrate-containing food items, like vegetables, grains, nuts, fruits, seeds and some milk products.

These are vital sources of fibers and other nutrients.

These are better than carbohydrates from starches and flour,  rice, bread, cakes, pies and other sweets.

¶ What are the other added sugars?

When doing our groceries, it is best to check the labels carefully for added sugars, salt, preservatives, etc.

Many food items have added sugars, including soups, processed meats, cereals, yogurts, bread and even condiments.

And they come on various forms, like brown sugar, honey, granulated sugars, corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses, brown rice syrup, etc.

Being wisely aware of our sugar intake is vital not only for those with diabetes but for everyone, since excess carbs could also cause heart disease, stroke and even cancer.

***

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