Tag Archives: rice

Rice Rice Baby

by Jose Antonio PhD FISSN.  I really like white rice.  You know the sticky kind that you can pick up with your fingers and throw down the gullet.  I mean 1.4 billion Chinese eatingricecouldn’t all be wong.  I’ve heard a million times how brown rice, which tastes like tree bark mixed with bread crust dipped in dog food, is soooo much better than the white variety.  Growing up eating rice the way most families consume potatoes and bread, I rarely go a day without consuming some white stuff.  So is the white stuff so bad?  Is it like eating fried Twinkies or Oreos?  Well grasshopper, empty your cup of tea and follow me down the path of truth and enlightenment.  LOL.  Actually, just read the rest of this silly article and let’s hope you’re entertained as well as edified.

One study stated that “higher consumption of white rice is associated with a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in Asian (Chinese and Japanese) populations.”1 Yikes, that’s me!  Does being a ‘Pacific Islander’ count?  Also, “consumption of brown rice in place of white can help reduce 24-h glucose and fasting insulin responses among overweight Asian Indians.”2  Shitfire I’m glad I’m not an overweight Asian Indian.  Either way, that study was an acute one.  And then we have this extensive  case-control study which looked at the association between white rice-based food consumption and the risk of ischemic stroke in a southern Chinese population. Information on diet and lifestyle was obtained from 374 incident ischemic stroke patients and 464 hospital-based controls. They found that the average weekly intake of rice foods appeared to be significantly higher in cases than in controls. Increased consumption of cooked rice, congee, and rice noodle were associated with a higher risk for ischemic stroke after controlling for confounding factors. So is this evidence of a link between habitual rice food consumption and the risk of ischemic stroke in Chinese adults?3 Maybe.

Now keep in mind what exactly a case control study is.  It is a design used in epidemiological research.  Basically what scientists do is compare subjects who have a certain condition (e.g. high blood pressure) with those who do not (e.g. are normal blood pressure) and then identify the factors that may lead to that condition.  Folks aren’t given a treatment per se.  The categories are statistical ones, not biological ones.  This study design is far inferior to the gold standard of science, the randomized controlled trial in which subjects are randomized to a ‘treatment’ or ‘placebo/control’ group.  Thus, there is an actual intervention to see if a ‘treatment’ has an effect and minimizes bias.white rice

So indeed it is true that epidemiologic studies have suggested that higher consumption of white rice (WR) is associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus.  And short term data shows that the glucose and insulin response is lower with brown vs white rice.  What if you actually substitute white rice with brown rice, should we not then see a benefit?  Especially if done over a period of several months?

Let’s see what this particular study showed.  A total of 202 middle-aged adults with diabetes or a high risk for diabetes were randomly assigned to a white rice (WR) or brown rice (BR) group and consumed the rice ad libitum (free access to rice) for 4 months. Metabolic risk markers were measured.  So what happened?  Did the WR group get ill?  Did the BR group become healthier than a triathlete?  They basically found no between-group differences for any markers.  However, blood LDL cholesterol concentration decreased more in the WR group compared to the BR group; this effect was observed only among participants with diabetes.  On the other hand, diabetics had a greater reduction in diastolic blood pressure in the BR group compared to the WR group.  So what’s the net-net?  Nothing!  There’s in essence no difference.4

jennifer-lopez-bikini1Most non-Asians consume rice about as frequently as a homeless man in Miami takes long bubble baths.  I mean have you ever seen a Chinese guy ask for brown rice?  When an Asian orders brown rice instead of white, it would be like the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders cheering for the Washington Redskins.  Ain’t gonna happen.  So for my brothas and sistas who are of the ‘Asian’ denomination (hey, that rhymes), go ahead and eat plenty of white rice. But, and this is a big but, not the J-Lo big butt, but the but with just one ‘t.’ Exercise like you’re being chased by an angry Doberman Pinscher! If you exercise hard enough, long enough and frequently enough, I seriously doubt that eating brown or white rice will make a helluva difference.

So next time you’re at PF Changs, go for the white stuff:-)

References for the Science Nerds

[1] Hu EA, Pan A, Malik V, Sun Q: White rice consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: meta-analysis and systematic review. Bmj 2012, 344:e1454.

[2] Mohan V, Spiegelman D, Sudha V, Gayathri R, Hong B, Praseena K, Anjana RM, Wedick NM, Arumugam K, Malik V, Ramachandran S, Bai MR, Henry JK, Hu FB, Willett W, Krishnaswamy K: Effect of Brown Rice, White Rice, and Brown Rice with Legumes on Blood Glucose and Insulin Responses in Overweight Asian Indians: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Diabetes technology & therapeutics 2014.

[3] Liang W, Lee AH, Binns CW: White rice-based food consumption and ischemic stroke risk: a case-control study in southern China. Journal of stroke and cerebrovascular diseases : the official journal of National Stroke Association 2010, 19:480-4.

[4] Zhang G, Pan A, Zong G, Yu Z, Wu H, Chen X, Tang L, Feng Y, Zhou H, Li H, Hong B, Malik VS, Willett WC, Spiegelman D, Hu FB, Lin X: Substituting white rice with brown rice for 16 weeks does not substantially affect metabolic risk factors in middle-aged Chinese men and women with diabetes or a high risk for diabetes. The Journal of nutrition 2011, 141:1685-90.

Bio –  Jose Antonio PhD – Science guy, paddler, avid MMA fan, www.theissn.org

Brown rice protein: for your digestive and athletic needs

By Scarlett Blandon, MS RDN.  Unless you were a vegan (or a yogi…or maybe a protein powder junky) the chances of you knowing about brown rice protein are slim to none.  Rice protein is a novel source of protein derived from the entire rice grain (including bran layer), and is available as brown-rice-jara concentrate or isolate just like other protein powders.  It offers several benefits that other protein powders do not, but chances are those merits have been drowned out by:  (1) the negative stereotypes surrounding rice protein’s  plant-based origin; (2) the popularity and media-hype of whey protein.  Sure, rice protein might not have all the looks and attractive qualities that whey does, but it’s those unique differences that make it an outstanding alternate protein source for athletes and sports enthusiasts alike.  Here are a few reasons why you might consider brown rice protein:

Easy on the stomach—and the immune system.

Dairy- and soy-derived protein supplements might be wonderful for X number of reasons, but unfortunately, not everyone can digest these proteins, and some might even be highly allergic to them.  The Food Allergy Research & Education organization states that about 15 million Americans have food allergies and this number appears to be on the rise1.  Milk and soy happen to be two of eight foods accounting for 90% of all food allergies1. Aside from dairy allergies, 30-50 million Americans are lactose intolerant2.  And despite lactose-free claims on dairy-derived protein supplements, many still anecdotally experience GI distress which can negatively interfere with training or performance (or number of friends :-) ).

Gluten is another, increasingly common immune-system offender. Some commercial protein supplements may contain ingredients derived from or made with gluten. This can be detrimental to the 3 lowcarb_riceoatsmillion Americans diagnosed with Celiac disease and many more who remain undiagnosed3.  What’s worse is that damage to the microvilli from gluten can actually cause a person to develop lactose-intolerance, rendering them doubly restricted from those food groups4.

On the other hand, brown rice protein is derived from rice, a well-known hypoallergenic food source.  As a staple food in many cultures (for thousands of years!), rice is highly unlikely to elicit an allergic reaction (or intolerance) and is not surprisingly recommended as a first food for babies.  As such, rice protein is expectedly gentle on the GI tract and may offer greater benefit to those athletes or exercise enthusiasts with food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities.

Aids in recovery and builds muscle, much like whey.

Up until recently, nothing was truly known about the ability of rice protein as a sports nutrition supplement.  Despite this, rice protein withheld much criticism from the athletic and scientific community given previous literature on the generally inferior quality of plant-based proteins and other data showing that low doses of plant-based proteins (mainly soy- and wheat-derived) do not increase muscle protein synthesis compared to animal-based proteins5,6.

Yes, rice and thus rice protein is limited in lysine and apparently less digestible than dairy proteins. But do these apparent “weaknesses” in rice protein make it unsuitable for sports nutrition? One study to date, says no.

The study, published in Nutrition Journal in June 2013, found that 24 collegiate athletes were able to obtain significant gains in muscle, power and strength whether they were taking a 48g rice protein or whey protein supplement following resistance training for 8 weeks7. They also experienced similar increases in acute recovery. Despite differences in amino acid profile, digestibility and digestion rate of the proteins, there were no statistical differences between groups.  The authors assert that protein type or composition is of less significance, when key nutrients are adequately provided. In this case, one key nutrient: leucine.  The leucine levels provided by the brown rice protein supplement appeared to be within or above the 2-3g threshold needed to maximize muscle protein synthesis8-11.

Although more research is needed in this arena for rice protein, these results indicate that at 48g, rice protein can serve as a substitute for whey protein for building muscle and strength.  This would be especially beneficial for those athletes who follow a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, are unable to digest dairy-based proteins and/or are looking for an alternate protein source.

Suits vegan or other plant-based lifestyles.

Almost 16 million people consider themselves vegetarian and another 6 million consider themselves vegan in the US alone according to one 2012 survey12.  Motives behind these plant-based lifestyles might include views on animal welfare, religious and cultural beliefs and/or environmental concerns.  However, 47% of vegans indicate that their major reason for following this diet is actually health, followed by animal welfare (40%)13.  While exercise is a health-related activity, it is not unreasonable to consider the inclusion of some athletes or sports enthusiasts in this population.

Although vegans & vegetarians are able to consume all essential nutrients from plant-based foods alone, it can be a challenge for athletes when certain nutrients like protein are needed in higher quantities.  Supplements like rice protein offer a convenient and concentrated source of protein to help meet their needs. Unlike soy, rice protein does not contain phytoestrogens which can potentially interfere with hormones.

Rice protein is also an excellent option for those trending on natural or other plant-based lifestyles.  Unlike many dairy- or soy-based protein supplements, rice proteins are predominantly processed using only water and natural enzymes rather than toxic solvents like hexane. Certain rice proteins may also offer value over other protein sources since it is not from a genetically modified source, does not come from an animal known to be treated with growth hormones (rbST/bGH), anabolic steroids (AAS), estrogens and other hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals known to, suspected of, to affect or have an impact upon human health.

Whether you are looking to rotate your protein source, give your stomach a break, trend on a novel and natural product all while building muscle and gaining strength, rice protein might be the choice for you.

About the Author: Scarlett Blandon is the in-house nutrition scientist for Axiom Foods, the worlds’ leading manufacturer of hexane-free rice protein among other plant proteins, and for Growing Naturals, a consumer brand specializing in hypoallergenic plant proteins and natural lifestyle products. At Axiom and GN she oversees all research-related ventures and nutrition communications. Having worked closely with renowned researchers in the past, she is dedicated to expanding the literature on rice- and other plant proteins while cultivating the knowledge of consumers and manufacturers alike.


  1. Facts and statistics. Food Allergy Research and Education. Available at:  http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats
  2. Lactose intolerance. Wexner Medical Center, Ohio State University. Available at: http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/digestive_disorders/lactose_intolerance/Pages/index.aspx
  3. Case S. Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and the gluten-free diet. July 2011. Available at: http://www.nutrition411.com/component/k2/item/28313-celiac-disease-gluten-sensitivity-and-the-gluten-free-diet
  4. Lactose intolerance and celiac disease. Celiac Disease Foundation. Available at: http://www.celiac.org/images/stories/PDF/lactose-intolerance.pdf
  5. Wilkinson SB, Tarnopolsky MA, Macdonald MJ, et al. Consumption of fluid skim milk promotes greater muscle protein accretion after resistance exercise than does consumption of an isonitrogenous and isoenergetic soy-protein beverage. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 85: 1031-1040.
  6. Norton LE, Layman DK, Bunpo P, et al. The leucine content of a complete meal directs peak activation but not duration of skeletal muscle protein synthesis and mammalian target of rapamycin signaling in rats. J Nutr. 2009; 139: 1103-1109.
  7. Joy J, Lowery RP, Wilson JM, et al. The effects of 8 weeks of whey or rice protein supplementation on body composition and exercise performance. Nutrition J. 2013; 12:86
  8. Norton LE, Layman DK. Leucine Regulates Translation Initiation of Protein Synthesis in Skeletal Muscle after Exercise. J Nutr. 2006; 136(2): 533S-537S.
  9. Norton L, Wilson GJ. Optimal protein intake to maximize muscle protein synthesis. Agro Food industry hi-tech. 2009; 20: 54-57.
  10. Paddon-Jones D, Sheffield-Moore M, Zhang XJ, et al. Amino acid ingestion improves muscle protein synthesis in the young and elderly. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2004; 286: E321-E328.
  11. Tipton KD, Ferrando AA, Phillips SM, et al. Postexercise net protein synthesis in human muscle from orally administered amino acids. Am J Physiol. 1999; 276: E628-E634.
  12. Newport F. In the US, 5% consider themselves vegetarian. Gallup Wellbeing. 2012. Available at: http://www.gallup.com/poll/156215/consider-themselves-vegetarians.aspx