Rice intake and risk of type 2 diabetes: the Singapore Chinese Health Study

Eur J Nutr. 2019 Dec;58(8):3349-3360. doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1879-7. Epub 2018 Dec 10.


Purpose: The prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) is increasing in Asian populations. White rice is a common staple food in these populations and results from several studies suggest that high white rice consumption increases T2D risk. We assessed whether rice, noodles and bread intake was associated with T2D risk in an ethnic Chinese population.

Methods: We included data from 45,411 male and female Chinese participants of the Singapore Chinese Health Study cohort aged 45-74 years at baseline. Usual diet at baseline was evaluated by a validated 165-item semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. Physician-diagnosed T2D was self-reported during two follow-up interviews. Multivariable Cox regression models were used to estimate hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

Results: During a mean follow-up of 11 years, 5207 incident cases of T2D were documented. Rice intake was not associated with higher T2D risk [HR for extreme quintiles, 0.98 (95% CI 0.90, 1.08)] despite the large variation in intake levels (median intake for extreme quintiles: 236.5 g/day vs. 649.3 g/day), although the precise risk estimate depended greatly on the substitute food. Replacing one daily serving of rice with noodles [HR 1.14 (95% CI 1.07, 1.22)], red meat [HR 1.40 (95% CI 1.23, 1.60)] and poultry [HR 1.37 (95% CI 1.18, 1.59)] was associated with higher T2D risk, whereas the replacement of rice with white bread [HR 0.90 (95% CI 0.85, 0.94)] or wholemeal bread [HR 0.82 (95% CI 0.75, 0.90)] was associated with lower T2D risk.

Conclusions: Higher rice consumption was not substantially associated with a higher risk of T2D in this Chinese population. Recommendations to reduce high white rice consumption in Asian populations for the prevention of T2D may only be effective if substitute foods are considered carefully.

Clinical trial registry number and website: NCT03356340, http://www.clinicaltrials.gov.

Keywords: Bread; Grains; Noodles; Refined grains; Rice; Type 2 diabetes.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diet / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oryza*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Singapore / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT03356340