Rice worse than sugary drinks for risk of diabetes & obesity

Diabetes in Asian populations is growing at an alarming rate. In fact, India (especially in rural areas) has one of the fastest rising rates of diabetes globally.

Carbohydrates are the cheapest source of calories, and rice is one of the cheapest among them.

What I’ve been saying in recent years is that the “quantity” of carbs you eat is MUCH more important to your health than the “quality”.

This doesn’t apply to many other food groups: quality of meat matters more than quantity. Quality of vegetables matters more than quantity.

However when it comes to carbs, quantity matters.

“But what about the glycemic index”? you may ask?

“It’s overrated” I always respond.

You can see from the chart in the article I link to below what I’ve been saying about the glycemic index in the past few years: the difference between a “high” glycemic index carb and a “low” glycemic index carb is a matter of minutes, not hours.

When people say that “low glycemic” carbs are healthier for you, it’s because “low glycemic” carbs take longer to digest, so they cause less of a spike in blood glucose and insulin.

This is perfectly true.

BUT, what people often don’t realize is the following:

  • The difference is a matter of minutes: a high GI food digests and elevates blood glucose within 5-10min of eating; a low GI food does the same within 45-60min. So in both cases, your blood glucose (and insulin) rise significantly within 60min of eating.

  • People consume more quantity of a low GI food: you eat more bread, pasta, potatoes, rice (low GI), vs. ice cream, sugar (high GI): the end result is that you have MORE total glucose going into your blood (over the course of that 60min) when you consume starches.

And THAT is the most critical thing (as supported by the study I link to below): more glucose into your blood means more insulin for a longer period of time, means higher risk of diabetes and obesity.

I’ll say it again: your body only burns carbs when you’re exercising at a high intensity. The rest of the time, you’re burning fat. This means that if you eat carbs other than just before/after a high intensity workout, you’re giving your body a fuel that it will not be able to use, and it will therefore “store” it by converting it to fat.

What’s an optimal range of carbs consumption? It varies, but here are some high level guidelines I recommend based on my experience and research (per day):

  • For a highly active athlete: 2-2.7g/kg on active days, 1.4-1.7g/kg on less active days

  • For moderately active people (e.g. gym goers): 1.4-1.7g/kg

  • For minimally active people: 0.9g/kg - 1.4g/kg

For example: if you’re a 75kg moderately active person: 1.5g x 75kg = 113g.

Link to study I refer to.

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