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Are we paying the price with more rice?

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Lose weight by adding low GI brown rice to your diet, which keeps you full for longer and helps you consume less overall

A recent article suggested eating more rice will help fight obesity.

However, I realised that could be misinterpreted.

Weight gain or loss can be easily explained through a concept known as caloric balance (intake vs output). It really is just an equation where:

caloric balance = energy intake - energy output.

What this means is that if you expend more energy than you take in from food, you will have a negative caloric balance.

After a period of negative caloric balance, you will lose weight.

If you expend 500 more calories than you take in every day, you will lose about 2kg in a month.

By this logic, eating more rice would mean more calories, which would mean weight gain. So why did the article say eating rice fights obesity?

What the article could have focused more on was that eating more rice as part of your diet (versus eating more rice in general) might help fight obesity.

The authors of the paper hypothesised that eating rice, rather than eating other forms of food such as meat, would help you feel full for longer, and thus you would eat fewer calories overall.

In other words, eating 500 calories worth of rice, rather than 500 calories worth of meat, might keep you full for longer and cause you to eat less overall.

Concept of Glycemic Index (GI)

Another important thing to note is the concept of Glycemic Index (GI). GI is a number assigned to carbohydrates in foods according to how they affect your blood sugar levels.

Carbohydrates with a low GI are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolised - thus causing a lower and slower rise in blood sugar.

We know that spikes in sugar levels from ingesting high GI food cause your body to produce insulin in spikes as well. These insulin spikes, in the long run, can contribute to the development of diabetes.

In the National Day Rally speech of 2017, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about how white rice has a higher GI than brown rice, adding that we should take carbohydrates with a lower GI.

In the same speech, PM Lee also touched on our caloric intake. In 1998, we ate on average 2,100 calories a day, which is about the right amount for those who are not very active. Fast forward to 2010, and we are taking in 2,600 calories a day. This is why the prevalence of obesity is rising in our population.

Obesity is also the largest single contributor

Obesity is a national health problem. The Singapore Burden of Diseases study found that obesity-related diseases had the largest impact on health in terms of suffering and cost.

The latest figures from the Ministry of Health showed that in 2017, 36.2 per cent of Singaporeans aged 18 to 69 were overweight. And 13 per cent of school-going children were overweight as well.

So how can we lose weight then?

In summary, you need a caloric deficit. You can increase your caloric deficit by dieting (eating smaller portions) and eating healthier. You can also increase your physical activity and thus energy expenditure.

The writer is a doctor from DTAP Clinic Group (Dr. Tan & Partners).