Increasing resistant starch content in rice could benefit health of more than half the world

Bowel Cancer Australia

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Australian researchers have discovered a method to increase the resistant starch content in cooked rice, making it more digestible.

The new form of rice has the ability to provide significant health benefits to more than half the world’s population and could potentially lead to lower rates of diabetes and obesity as well as disorders of the bowel, including cancer.

Providing much of the world with most of their calories, rice is a food staple for more than half the world’s population – more than 3.5 billion people depend on rice for more than 20% of their daily calories according to the Global Rice Science Partnership.
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“Most of the component of rice is starch,” said Bowel Cancer Australia nutritionist Teresa Mitchell.

“Starch is a complex carbohydrate made up of a naturally occurring sugar called glucose.”

“Because rice is usually digested very quickly, the intake of glucose can result in a what feels like a sugar hit,” said Teresa.

“However, resistant starch reduces the likelihood of a ‘sugar hit’ because it escapes digestion while passing through the stomach and small intestine.”

“Upon reaching the large intestine, it is fermented by microbes, producing beneficial molecules known as short-chain fatty acids,” Teresa said.
The short-chain fatty acids include butyrate, which is known to inhibit colonic tumour cells while promoting the growth of healthy colonic epithelial cells.
Resistant starch can also be found in foods such as slightly green bananas; cooked, cooled potato and rice (e.g. salads made from potato and rice); whole grains; seeds and beans such as chickpeas and lentils.
While the new rice has the potential to benefit many people living in places where rice makes up a significant part of the local diet, it is more likely to be targeted to individuals susceptible to or actively trying to control their sugar intake according to the researchers.
Further trials and assessment of the rice still need to be performed before it can be introduced to market.
Undertaken at the University of Tasmania, the study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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