What if we can tackle obesity by eating rice? Yes, rice! Sounds like a dream for us in this part of the world, right? Well, there is a new study that suggests just this — that you can maintain a healthy weight while consuming rice. The study, which was recently presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Glasgow, found that people who followed a Japanese or Asian-style diet based on rice were less likely to be obese than those living in countries where rice consumption was low.
The research, led by Prof Tomoko Imai, from Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts, Kyoto, Japan, also looked at rice consumption in terms of grams per person and calorie intake in 236 countries.
Although rice has been getting a bad rep as the white carb which could make you gain weight (why many popular weight loss diet systems don’t include rice in the meal plans), the study observed that the obesity rate is low in countries that eat rice as a staple food.
“Therefore, a Japanese food or an Asian-food-style diet based on rice may help prevent obesity,” said Prof Tomoko, adding that rice is a low fat food that could keep you full longer due to the fibre, nutrients, and plant compounds found in whole grains in order to prevent you from overeating.
But what about us in Malaysia? We are, in fact, Asia’s fattest country with almost half the population overweight or obese. And according to the 2015 National Health & Morbidity Survey (NHMS), the rate of obesity in Malaysia has grown by 302% in just under 20 years when compared to a similar study done in 1996.
Dietitian and nutritionist, Adele Wong Li-Peng says that there is absolutely no single cause for obesity.
“Weight loss is complex as it almost always involves a combination of factors like food choice, lifestyle, activity levels, health status, genetics, and others, that lead to an overall positive energy balance,” she says.
Adele adds that there is no single food that directly causes weight loss, and no food is inherently fattening.
“Hyper palatable, energy dense, processed foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat are super tasty, and may leave you wanting for more, and put you in a calorie surplus, causing weight gain,” she explains.
With regards to the study on rice, Adele says that rice is a satiating food, and you may benefit from eating a little more rice due to that. However, she adds, it is misleading to say things like “eat more rice to lose weight” because it creates the false notion that eating more rice would solve the issue of obesity.