White rice = DIABETES!

This is becoming humorous. Earlier this week the media was full of stories about the Harvard study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, which purported to show a link between meat consumption and early mortality. The gleeful dancing of the vegan lipophobes was evident everywhere. One of their leading gurus, Dr Dean Ornish, was moved to write an editorial which opened with this statement: “Is meat bad for you? In a word, yes.” (http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/archinternmed.2012.174).

The story had prominent exposure in the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/12/dean-ornish-red-meat-heart-disease_n_1339964.html) where Dr Ornish is the medical editor. Even though the study is deeply flawed and proves exactly nothing, it is being heralded everywhere as if it were proof of the second coming.

So, it was interesting to find another similar study reported in the Huffington Post earlier today. Featured on the front page was this: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/03/15/white-rice-increases-type-2-diabetes_n_1347972.html.

This article originating in the UK edition, cites a study which linked white rice consumption to type 2 diabetes. Even though it uses basically the same methodology as the meat study, it doesn’t have all of its flaws and it found a stronger association. Not only that, but it found a dose-response relationship, something missing from the meat study until the statistics were manipulated. The white rices paper was a meta-analysis of a number of individual studies, all but one of which found some degree of association.  Since it is a meta-analysis, it is arguably better quality evidence than what one would find from a single observational study. So, on balance, from a scientific perspective, the evidence for the white rice link to diabetes, although still observational, is stronger than that which links meat to mortality.

To further add to the irony, the study in question was produced by the same Harvard researchers that produced the meat study. It is published in the British Medical Journal (http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e1454).

Naturally, the comments section at HuffPo is full of disbelief from the folks who subscribe to the ideology that meat is the root of all evil and no plant food could possibly do harm.

Although the white rice article was featured on the front page of the US edition this morning, it has entirely disappeared now. It can still be found in the UK edition. I guess it had slipped through before Ornish got out of bed.

I suppose it would be futile to expect another accompanying Ornish editorial which says: “Is white rice bad for you? In a word, yes.”

Sound of crickets …

18 thoughts on “White rice = DIABETES!

  1. I missed the rice article, and I guess a lot of members of Team Veg who haunt the US edition of FluffPoo missed it, too. Otherwise, the sound of heads exploding would probably have tipped me off that something was up.

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    You should be able to find it using the HuffPo search function. Enter: white rice diabetes. It’s really interesting how quickly it vanished once the sun was up on the West Coast.

  2. I found it and posted a couple of comments. The comments on that article actually seem even slightly more ill-informed than the comments on the typical anti-meat article.

    Dr Jay’s Reply:


  3. Dr. Jay,

    The question that always arises with regard to white rice is “how come billions of Asians have survived on white rice for countless years yet don’t become fat or diabetic…”. How do you approach that question? Thanks, and thanks for your efforts on your blog.

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    There are examples of people whose main source of calories were starchy foods and who did’t have the major chronic disease problems we are now seeing. In those cases, generally speaking, they tended not to refine their carbs too much, they didn’t eat sugar, their diet was low in fructose, the tended not to overeat and they were very active. It appears that if you start to change those factors you will see the advent of chronic disease. This is what is happening now in places like China and south Asia. There are big problems with obesity and diabetes there and in other places around the world. The Middle Eastern countries are now experiencing high rates of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, for instance. There is some evidence suggesting that increasing fructose intake beyond a certain threshold may be a big driver of this. Paul Zimmett, the world famous diabetologist, called it the “Coca-Colonization” of the world.

  4. Tragicomedy.

    At the risk of stating the obvious, there is a major difference between red meat and white rice. We know the metabolic reason that white rice promotes diabetes and is dose dependent: glucose triggers insulin. There isn’t even a metabolic candidate to explain how red meat might cause earlier mortality, now that the saturated fat myth has been scientifically debunked.

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    I know. It’s crazy. It’s all part of a dying paradigm trying to preserve itself.

  5. Better said: Revised and Edited;

    ?”I have found the “devil”. Genuinely. — I know that you don’t believe that. Nobody does. — Stimulants. — It’s the “adrenaline like effects” of sugars and hybrid carbohydrates”. This is the devil, for sure and for true. “It’s God, too”. — Not just the profound effects on our bodies and body chemistry, like diabetes and heart disease and cancer and mental disease and obesity and anorexia and whatnot, our entire earths population. But the adrenaline like effects and high energy that fuels and effects our minds and intelligence and emotions and feelings and senses and sexuality and thought processes, profoundly. Our being. — Our thoughts and our decisions and our perceptions. What we see and what we think and what we feel. Our spirits, our souls, our psyche, our ego, our self esteem, our aggressiveness, our passivity. — Alcohol is the highest form of sugar. All are stimulant drugs that make us crazy. But we don’t know that and when we hear it, we think of it as absurd and we don’t believe it. We think it’s laughable. Man’s taking over of the whole world, and effecting what we see and think and feel, by stimulants. Wheat and flour and rice and fruit and vegetables and milk, being stimulants. “This is whacko rants and raves of a lunatic madman. Foolishness, personified. Idiocy. Idiosyncrasy. Extremism, Ignorance, Myth, Imagination, Fantasy, Dreams, Hallucinations, Paranoia. — My discovery, I share with you. Yes, it is all of the above, and more. Sugar and hybrid carbohydrates. Man made stimulant drugs. Thank you.
    -Tom Bunnell

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    You may be onto something.

  6. Between fermentation in the gut producing alcohol, excessive yeast and mycotoxins from molds on the grains – I think Tom is onto something. The first agriculturist societies must have looked idiotic to the pastoralists, until they found out just how violently crazy the aggies were – then they were just plain scary.

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    Scary, but not as robust. In a recent biography of Genghis Khan, the ability of the Mongols to overrun the Chinese armies is greatly attributed to the fact that their pastoralist diet gave them a military advantage.

  7. Thanks, — Yes I am, for sure. — The granddaddy of all granddaddies. — I just stumbled onto it while searching sugar addiction and putting two and two together a few years back — The “hybrid” and “addiction” factors, I believe to be very significant. They are not recognized at all.

  8. The magnitude of this thing is beyond measure and nearly impossible to see and grasp and comprehend. — A great big, colossal, mistake. As large as the earth itself. — As large as the www, world wide web. and then bigger than the whole world, and the www, world wide web combined, and then still bigger still and bigger and bigger yet. — That’s how big it is. Then it becomes simple as day and plainly visible, once you get on to it. — It’s the purest of truth. I can promise you that. No wild goose chase here. — What to do about it and what to do with it, is larger still. It’s impossible. . Completely impossible. Completely and totally impossible. — Yet we try, and try, and try again. — So help me God. — A God that isn’t. — A God created by sugars and starches. Factually. — Unbelievably.

  9. Hi, It’s been a while. Recently, I read Lierre Keith’s wonderful book “The Vegetarian Myth”. In one section, she describes plant strategies of survival i.e. how they attract or deter animals. The book’s bibliography led me to Michael Pollan’s book “The Botany of Desire”. How does this apply to diet and health? Keep in mind that grains(seeds) are the babies of plants. The last thing they want is to be digested; they want to germinate. So to that end plants have evolved effective deterents to animals that would eat them. This is why they make us sick i.e. the various degrees of wheat intolerance, lectins, oxalates, phytates,etc. On the other hand, plants also use chemicals to enitce animals, insects and even other plants to do tasks they cannot do for themselves. For example, poppys(heroin) and wheat, the two oldest crops, only differ in the degree of potency. These plants are annuals and they have a short window for reproduction. They want to entice animals to return again and again. They exchange a high for servitude. The high becomes an addiction. See where this is going?

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    This is an interesting area of speculation. I do think there are things going on with carbs and the serotonin and dopamine pathways. There is a pretty good case that carbs can be addictive for susceptible people. This appears to be particularly true for sugar. Having said that, I confess I find it hard to get my head around the idea that a plant would evolve a sophisticated strategy to invite domestication as a means of propagation. On the other hand, house cats seem to have been successful at this. Interesting question.

  10. On the subject of evolution. The idea that plants evolved ways to survive implies willful intent. Until we find how plants think, I think it’s safe to say willful intent doesn’t apply to plants. Instead, I think evolution is merely the product of natural selection. Natural selection does not need willful intent. It’s a mechanism driven simply by the pressures of survival.

    A plant doesn’t need to _want_ to survive in order to survive. It merely needs to be adapted for the conditions that allow it to survive. This adaptation is not driven by intent, but by random chance. As random chance of genetic replication and mutation allows certain traits to make a plant more or less adapted to the conditions, those that are better adapted will survive, those that aren’t won’t. These conditions include the inability of predators to handle poisons for example. If a genetic mutation happens to produce this poison in this plant, and if the predators can’t handle this poison, then this plant will be allowed to survive. That’s not all there is but it’s the basic principle of survival for plants.

    The same is true for animals as well. Willful intent is not needed to survive. However, the instincts derived from genetic mutations allow some individuals to handle the conditions that would easily kill them otherwise. These instincts might seem like willful intent to the untrained eye, yet they are still not the product of willful intent themselves.

    Like the joke says, I don’t need to run faster than the bear, I only need to run faster than you. While today we understand how training allows us to run faster, that joke exposes the fact that we didn’t need training before to survive. We simply had to be born with the ability to run faster than somebody else, and let serendipity put both of us in the presence of a hungry bear. The one who survived the encounter would have reproduced, and reproduced this ability to run faster.

    The point is that if a plant’s genetic mutations gave it the ability to secrete substances that attracted predators, yet allowed the plant’s seeds to survive digestion, none of that is automatically attributable to willful intent, but simply to natural selection.

    This makes perfect sense. A seed that lands in a pile of dung will have a much richer environment in which to grow than one that lands on a patch of dry land. A seed that has the ability to collect more nutrients as it passes through a predator’s gut (phytates that bind to minerals) will also have a better chance to sprout. Finally a seed that can resist digestion both mechanically and chemically by predators have a much better chance of all of the above.

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    I understand that is how evolution works in a general sense. What puzzles me is whether a species that is domesticated by humans somehow selects for domestication. I think that is what the previous comment was suggesting.

  11. I see what you mean. I agree with you. I think it’s not the species that selects domestication. Instead I think it’s domestication that selects the species. The cattle we have now isn’t the cattle we started with. Through extensive husbandry over the millenia, we selected traits that allowed easier and better domestication. It works the same way as natural selection, but it’s _artificial_ selection. As the cattle today is now fully selected for domestication, it could appear to have chosen domestication on its own. But you would be right to doubt this, it’s merely an appearance. The only one to whom could be attributed willful intent is us.

    Though we could speculate that if we were to release all the cattle into the wild, only those who remained in our care (by choice or chance) would survive due to the extensive husbandry that selected for those traits. Yet as natural selection and random chance of genetic mutations still goes on, and the original traits were not necessarily erased by husbandry, some of them might still be somewhat adapted to the wild and survive and reproduce.

    But to veer back to the topic. The seeds that are too toxic would kill the predators who ate them. So they wouldn’t generate plants that produced those seeds anymore. Yet they could still be toxic enough to make us sick if we ate enough of them for long enough. But not toxic enough to kill predators who ate them only seasonally. And so this is our dilemma. Do we still consider it food even if it’s not toxic enough to kill us outright, yet toxic enough to make us sick after 20 years of eating enough of it? I recently wrote a post on my blog that touches on this subject. Care to take a look? (shameless plug here)

    As you’ve worked with many to make them better and even made yourself better this way, I sense that you’ll see something useful in this. At least I hope you will.


  12. Perhaps we need to broaden our idea of willful intent, Carl Jung taught us that most of the decisions we make are unconscious, driven as much by our organs as much as our wakeful concsciousness. In fact, the brain itself is classed as a secondary organ. It has also been shown in studies of jellyfish that have no brain at all seem to act intelligently, not just reflexively. Just a week or two ago Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things” did a wole episode on on plant behaviour. The main scientist from the U of Alberta featured on the show complained that most of his collegues think he’s nuts but he is convinced of plant consciousness. Also, it is widely known that the addiction cycle is most often triggered by a toxin. We are all too often attracted to the substances we are intolerant to.
    But I have to say that I look at a beer differently now. Is there some vestigal bargain still activated in that point of Smithwicks? When I see a kid deeply inhaling pot smoke I can’t help but seeing a very old interaction or relationship or bargain being established. Clinically speaking, the more perspectives we have on a problem, the better chance we have of surmounting it. For example, the loss of one’s personal health may not be enough of a deterrent for a young woman to quit smoking, but if she becomes pregnant the fact that it could harm her fetus perhaps would be the clincher for her to quit. In diet and health counseling we have to find out what the client finds intolerable. It may be the realization of the grand fraud of low-fat yogurt may be more decisive as a deterrent than the risk of diabetes sometime in the distant future. What do you see in a bottle of coke? A fashion statement? A lie? A blod sugar disrupter? A drug? A good stock option? Which perspective is dominant in you to make you want it or leave it?

  13. Re: Bunnell Farm and the Devil.
    Since it’s Easter, I think I can be forgiven to briefly talk relgion but in the context of sugar, of course.
    Yes, I’ll never see the Christian Communion ritual quite the same as the priest lifts the broken bread to heaven. As I said in my last post “The Botany of Desire” and “The Vegetarian Myth” has added another perspective to the sugar addiction problem. But that doesn’t waver my faith in God (to me, a metaphor for non-duality). The Bunnell claim that God is sugar risks committing the same fallacy (or cardinal sin if you like) that Saint Taubes realized regarding conventional diet and health theory. You are taking an association and assigning causality. Though you have a point you only have a hypothesis. How are you going to verify a non-dual realization using your dualistic reason? God is the antithesis of reason. As my favourite world mythology teacher Joseph Campbell said: “The best things can’t be told” But I would accept that a sugar high could be seen as a counterfiet peak experience of genuine non-dual reality that may be behind the dualistic world. Consider the old Buddhist metaphor of “the finger pointing at the moon” Anything you rationalize about about God can be nothing more than a finger pointing to the moon. I can easily accept the Bunnell theory as helpful in avoiding mistaking sugar for God but it can’t refute God. Non-duality cannot be written off as a delusion caused by sugar or dismisssed by Aristotleian reason by the likes Richard Dawkins and Chris Hedges (RIP). But the Easter Bunny giving HFCS candies to children is hell on earth.

  14. Sorry! Correction! I meant Chis Hitchens, not Chris Hedges. Hedges is an amazing journalist in the USA

  15. Hello Dr. Jay,

    I’m curious as to your thoughts on why people in Japan eat a lot of white rice carbohydrates, but they still have low rates of heart disease.

    Thanks in advance.

    Dr Jay’s Reply:

    While rice is part of Asian diets, there are many other factors that differentiate these diets from the Standard American Diet. The low sugar consumption is a big factor and may be enough to explain much of the difference in chronic disease rates. Now that the whole world is being Coca-Colonized, however, we are seeing rates of chronic disease rise in these populations where obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease were rare or absent in the recent past.

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