Why are Asian people eating rice thin?

Asians are famous for their rice, or more specifically, rice that is cooked in the absence of anything else. The rice is eaten plain, sometimes with soy sauce or ginger, and often with chili or other spices. The rice is eaten with chopsticks, and sometimes with a spoon for dessert.

In the West, rice is a staple in the diet of many people, but in parts of Asia, the rice is often consumed in such large amounts that it’s all but invisible. This has led to the obesity epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region. The causes of rice consumption being high are varied, and include culture, tradition, and the cost of rice in Asia.

Rice is a staple in the Asian diet. It is a staple in the Asian diet because it’s prepared and consumed in such a way that emphasizes its inherent qualities, rather than the particular way it’s prepared. Rice is a great carbohydrate, as it is digested and metabolized into glucose very quickly, and it can be prepared in many ways to accentuate its properties for a wide range of purposes.


This is a question that is often posed. Why were some individuals (e.g. the Japanese) slim on a high-carb diet if carbohydrates may make you fat?

Dr. Peter Attia has written an excellent article on the topic: Nutrition Academy: How can certain plants maintain their leanness while consuming huge quantities of carbohydrates?

I agree with his views in general, however I believe there are some more responses to this question:

Three major factors are to blame.

The following are the major reasons why I believe individuals can maintain their weight on a high-carb diet:

  1. Refined sugar intake is low or non-existent (fructose). Insulin resistance may be avoided if you do this.
  2. They traditionally consume mostly unprocessed starchy foods (e.g., brown rice, root vegetables), which take a long time to digest owing to their high fiber content.
  3. Physically active in comparison to the sedentary Western people. Consider the difference between a Japanese rice farmer (who works in the field all day) and an American office worker with a vehicle. You require less insulin when you consume carbs if you burn more glucose (via physical exercise).

Even with high carbohydrate levels, you can probably remain thin and healthy if you avoid sugar (fructose) and processed carbohydrates with a high GI value and keep physically active. This has been done by a large number of people.

Addendum: As several have correctly pointed out, Asians no longer consume brown or unprocessed rice, preferring instead white rice. It is, in fact. It’s also true that these people aren’t as slim and healthy as they once were; India and China now have two of the world’s worst type 2 diabetes epidemics, even worse than the United States. This disease is linked to weight issues, such as abdominal obesity.

Using the body mass index (an inaccurate metric, see below), China’s obesity rate has already exceeded that of the United States. In this article, I’ll explain how these populations were able to remain thin and healthy, since that is no longer the case.

When did this issue (obesity + diabetes) become more prevalent in Asia? Sugar and white rice were also introduced to their diet at the same time.

There are three more variables.

Three additional small causes may have had a role in the historical decline of these populations:

  1. Poverty: By today’s standards, these typically slim individuals were very impoverished, which meant that they couldn’t always afford to eat everything they wanted.
  2. Food as a reward/dependence This may be debatable, but I believe that all of the blogosphere’s discussion about food rewards makes logic. Our junk food and sweets are meticulously crafted to taste unnaturally delectable and addicting. There’s also a lot of sugar and starch in it. It’s the same with cigarettes: Nicotine is addicting, therefore people smoke a lot, causing cancer. People consume more fast food and sweets because they are addicting, and the excess sugar/starch makes them obese.
  3. Composition of the genome. A typical Asian is not like a typical Caucasian or African. They have less muscular mass and a slimmer body on average. This implies that using BMI to compare the weight of Americans/Europeans and Asians is inaccurate since it exaggerates the disparity. At a BMI deemed normal for whites, Asians may become skinny or even acquire diabetes (e.g. BMI 24).

What are your thoughts?

What are your thoughts on this frequent topic and its potential answers?

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