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"Eating rice seems to protect against weight gain," lead researcher Tomoko Imai from Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts in Japan, said in a statement. "It's possible that the fibre, nutrients, and plant compounds found in whole grains may increase feelings of fullness and prevent overeating."
Rice, Imai added, “is also low in fat and has a relatively low postprandial blood glucose level which suppresses insulin secretion.”
The study notes that because the international study is a cross-sectional examination, it cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship and requires more research.
One significant limitation to the research, as Medical News Today pointed out, is the use of body mass index as a standard measure of overall health. "The scientists did not ascertain how many people have, for instance, an unhealthily low BMI, which would skew the data by bringing the country's average BMI down," the site reported.
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Imai and her team also believe further investigation is needed to better understand what constitutes an appropriate amount of rice intake in obesity prevention, as previous research has shown overconsumption of rice may lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Still, as the European Association for the Study of Obesity mentioned in its news release, "whilst a limitation of cross-sectional studies is the risk of identifying false associations as a result of confounding factors, the association identified between rice consumption and obesity remained even after adjusting for various lifestyle and socioeconomic risk factors."
As of Friday, the findings are still awaiting a peer-review process required before publication.