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White Rice vs Brown Rice

Daniel Brady | November 26, 2012 in Nutrition
White Rice and Whole Grain Rice

Eating white rice makes you fatter, increases your risk of diabetes. Read on to see why replacing white rice with brown rice or whole grain rice is a worthwhile lifestyle change.

First I’ll give my hypothesis, then we’ll get to the research. Considering that brown and white rice have almost identical calorie content[1], there must be another reason that white rice causes fat gain. I’m guessing that it’s the higher glycemic index of white rice and the resulting insulin response.

Glycemic Index of White Rice and Brown Rice

White Rice has a higher glycemic index than brown rice.[2] Read the following quote to see why this is a problem.

“Many high-carbohydrate foods common to Western diets produce a high glycemic response, promoting postprandial carbohydrate oxidation at the expense of fat oxidation, thus altering fuel partitioning in a way that may be conducive to body fat gain.”[3]

It means that if you eat high-GI foods, your body will stop burning fat and instead burn those high-GI foods. Since the calories consumed are the same, that is my hypothesis.

Study 1: Increasing Whole Grain Consumption

It is presumed that by increasing the whole grain intake, that the refined grain intake is reduced proportionately. The group who increased whole grain consumption by 40 grams per day put on less weight over an 8 year period than those who ate the refined grains.[4]

Conclusion: Eating white rice makes you put on more weight than brown rice or whole grain rice.

Study 2: Dieting with White Rice versus Dieting with Brown Rice

While both groups lost weight from their diets, the brown rice group lost more weight and more fat.
((Meal replacement with mixed rice is more effective than white rice in weight control, while improving antioxidant enzyme activity in obese women. Jung Yun Kim, Ju Hyeon Kim, Da Hee Lee, Sook He Kim, Sang Sun Lee))

Conclusion: Eating brown rice while dieting is more effective than white rice.

Study 3: High White Bread Consumption versus More Healthy Foods

This study showed that people who eat a lot of white bread increased their waist circumference by more than 3 times as much as people who ate a healthier diet relatively high in fruit, vegetables, fiber, and other “healthy” foods.[5]

Conclusion: White bread, similar to white rice, makes you fatter than alternative fiber-rich foods like brown rice, fruit and vegetables.

Study 4: White Rice versus brown Rice and Diabetes Risk

This study found that replacing 50 grams per day of white rice with brown rice reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 16%, while replacing 50 grams of white rice with whole grain rice reduced the risk by 36%.[2] I expect this reduced risk would be related to reduced obesity due to the changes.

Conclusion: Brown rice is good, but whole grain is best. Eat whole grain rice if possible for maximum health benefits.


While brown rice or whole grain rice is harder to cook and more expensive, you’ll definitely improve your health by making this positive lifestyle change. The same applies for white bread and whole grain bread, but that is a far simpler change. Anybody who wants less fat would benefit from the change to whole grains.

Daniel has a strong interest in evidence supported fitness training, preparation and supplementation. His goal is to provide clear information that simply works. He's currently 16 kg of muscle above his starting weight (7kg in the past 12 months), and targeting a continued growth rate of 5kg+ per year.
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