New slow-digesting rice could help combat diabetes, obesity

Rice waiting for the harvester
Photo: The new rice could help people trying to contain their sugar intake. 

(ABC Rural: David Sparkes)
Researchers in Tasmania have created a new form of rice that could help reduce rates of diabetes and obesity.

The scientists have discovered a way to increase the production of resistant starch in rice, which can improve digestibility.

Professor Steven Smith from the University of Tasmania said the discovery could have numerous health benefits.

"Normally rice is digested relatively quickly, and because most of the component of the rice is starch, which is made up of sugars, that essentially gives you a sugar hit," he said.

"So the modified rice contains this different kind of starch which is digested more slowly and therefore you don't get that same sugar hit."

In combination with a healthy diet, Professor Smith said the rice could help reduce instances of diet-related health problems like obesity and diabetes.

Professor Smith said there was potential for the new rice to help a large number of people in Asian countries where rice is a significant part of local diets, but he envisaged it would benefit a more specific consumer group.

"It will be more likely to be targeted to those people who may be susceptible or who are actively trying to control their sugar intake," he said.

"I don't see it as a widespread adoption of this new kind of rice but rather something that's available for particular use to help people contain their sugar intake."

Further trials and assessment of the rice still need to be undertaken before it can be introduced to market.
"We could see this going into production within a few years — let's say five years," Professor Smith said.
"I would suspect that there will be other questions that will arise in terms of the benefits to farmers, the production systems and so on, so realistically it could take longer."

The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Source: ABCnet

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