Why are Asian People Eating Rice Thin?


Thin Rice Eater

It’s a common question. If carbs can make you fat, why were some populations (e.g. Japanese people) thin while eating a high carb diet?

Dr Peter Attia has written a nice post on this: The War on Insulin: How do some cultures stay lean while still consuming high amounts of carbohydrates?

I basically agree with his ideas, although I think there is a few more answers to this question: 

The three big reasons

Here are the main reasons why I think populations could stay thin on high carb diets:

  1. Low to insignificant consumption of refined sugar (fructose). This may stop insulin resistance from developing.
  2. Eating mainly unrefined starch (e.g. brown rice, root vegetables) that is slow to digest, due to high fiber content etc.
  3. Traditionally more physical activity then sedentary western population. Compare a Japanese rice farmer (in the field all day) to an American office worker with a car. If you burn more glucose (via physical activity) then less insulin is needed when you eat carbs.

If you avoid sugar (fructose) and refined high GI starch and stay physically active you can probably stay thin and healthy on a high percentage of carbs. Lots of populations have done so.

Three more factors

  1. Poverty: These traditionally thin populations were on average fairly poor by todays standards, meaning perhaps they could not always afford all the food they would like to eat.
  2. Food reward / addiction. This may be controversial but I think there is a point to all this food reward talk that’s been going on in the blogosphere. Our processed junk food and candy is carefully designed to artificially make it taste great and be addictive. It also contains a lot of sugar and starch. It’s like cigarettes: The nicotine makes people addicted, thus they smoke a lot and the smoke gives them cancer. Fast food and candy is also addictive, thus people eat more of it and the sugar / starch overdose makes them fat.
  3. Genetic makeup. Asians do not look like Caucasians or Africans. They have (on average) way less musculature, they have a thinner build. This means that comparisons between the weight of Americans / Europeans and Asians using BMI is misleading, it exaggerates the difference. Asians are often “skinny fat” or even get diabetes at BMI levels that are considered normal for Caucasians (e.g BMI 24).

What do you say?

What do you think about this common question and the possible explanations?

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Top Comments

  1. Dear Laura
    I am a Professor of Biochemistry but we all have a lot to learn.

    1. The concept of tortuous metabolic pathway is not in the biochemical texts. Both fructose and glucose proceed through separate pathways of glycolysis but converge at the level of the triose-phosphtates so, at that point, they are essentially the same. The difference in metabolism has to do with the relative rates of the different enzymes and depends on a large number of factors. Ethanol does not proceed through this path except possibly under some unusual conditions. Ethanol is oxidized ultimately to acetyl-CoA and goes into the TCA cycle.

    2. Reading your comment, though, it hit me that this process is not called detoxification. In fact, the metabolism of alcohol through the dehydrogenates to acetyl-CoA is not called detoxification either. Detoxification of alcohol usually refers to the process at high alcohol ingestion where alcohol is less like a food than like a drug. In this case, it is not oxidized through the normal pathway but rather through the cytochrome P450 system which is completely different from normal metabolism and is considered detoxification but I don't think that fructose ever enters this system.

    3. On the specific point you raise though, glucose is the major source of protein glycosylation. This is because, although fructose exists to a greater degree in the open (free aldehyde) form, there is much less fructose in the blood. First, there is more glucose altogether but, remember, your body maintains blood glucose while it clears fructose. I challenged Lustig on this once and he did have an example where fructose was more important than glucose but this is rare.

    That's some of the biochemistry that I do have although I admit that I could use more.
    (i answered this in email so forgive possible duplication)

    Read more →
  2. Lustig can't be wrong because his is all over the place. He's as ubiquitous as Alec Baldwin so at some time he's said everything. "I am not against sugar" but it is a toxin. "I am not opposed to low-carb diets" but he would never use them because patients can't stay on them, never mind that the data show that they have better adherence than others. The problem with Lustig is that he has given up on scientific method and scientific rigor. His indictment of sugar is analogous to banning Hondas because the increase in traffic jams correlates with the increase in Hondas.

    From my perspective, he is making a parody of teaching biochemistry which is my job. A metabolic map is like any map. It tells you where you can go but it doesn't show you the traffic lights or the road construction. Also, what's missing from Lustig's compelling talks is data. The studies that support sugar as toxic are done at a total carbohydrate of 55 %. Under those conditions adding fructose is clearly worse than adding glucose, but is that what we want to know. Science is about the facts and understanding so, in some sense, there are no credentials but Lustig is simply not acting like a biochemist although he wants to take credit for being one. We could be wrong in our methods but he is definitely not a biochemist. The reason real biochemists don't like to jump in here is because we are reluctant to make sweeping statements. But we have some data and as far as we know, the effect of replacing fructose with glucose even under the conditions that he cites, is generally not as great as replacing any carbohydrate with any kind of fat.

    The bottom line from a therapeutic perspective is that the mass of data clearly shows that for diabetes and metabolic syndrome and obesity, dietary carbohydrate restriction is the best bet -- if it doesn't work, thou can try something else. If you want to take sugar out of the diet, even just sugared soda as a strategy for reducing total carbohydrate, that may be very effective for obesity. For diabetes, it may be better to reduce starch depending on the individual case and conditions. What's scary about Lustig is that he is on the American Heart Association panels, the group who have gone out of their way to attack low carb diets and to distort the scientific data.

    In term of the original thread on Asian diets, it is obvious that we don't know enough to make any clear statements although all the comments touch on relevant stuff. Overall, what we know is less than what we don't know but if you give up on scientific method, you've got nothing.

    Read more →
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All Comments

  1. Niki
    I know many Asian folks, and one thing I have observed is that the meat is usually very fatty, (yummy) and they waste nothing (yummy) unless they have been totally North Americanized. They know what to reduce when they need to lose weight--rice. And Asian deserts are virtually non-existent in comparison with NA. So the sum of the carbs relative to the animal fats and protein is in better proportion. So they are satiated sooner, on traditional not North Americanized Asian foods.
  2. Niki
    China has been out of the low fat loop for a long time now. When they eat meat, it is meat with fat. Anyone who has been to a real Asian restaurant knows the difference. The fat consumed with meat is Delish. The overall level of actual protein to fat is therefore lower. They eat lots of organs and interstitial tissue. NA methods of meat selection are considered near dog-food. Like the Inuit, the best parts for NA, are fed to the dogs. So I would predict that the overall fat consumption amongst Asians who eat meat is much higher than in NA, and that that is the reason for lower obesity. And Asians are not into sugary deserts.
  3. Helsic
    I live in China but I'm not Chinese, I'm Colombian. Obesity is a common problem in Colombia too so when I first came into China I was surprised to see the overall skinny population. After living here for a while I realized the clue is in the food they eat and what they drink. Most Chinese people drink Tea all day long. They seldom drink Coca-Cola or other similar drinks. Most Chinese kids love to eat veggies and soup, they eat fruits everyday so they grow up with a healthy diet. After eating Chinese food in a regular daily basis I noticed that my metabolism became faster than before, now I have to go to the toilet more often than I used to go in Colombia, and that improved my digestion system in general.

    There are very few overweight people here compared to western countries but there are still some people who deal with obesity for different reasons like congenital diseases ,bad eating habits or just because they genes.

  4. Singben
    It boils down to genes.My family eats tones of rice(a few bowls of 200g each) ,meat,fish,breads,cakes and very little vegetables and fruits for they are believed to be too cooling and thus bad for one's gut.Everyone of us is very slim,almost underweight,but fit and healthy.My overweight friend always skips meals,avoid this and that,sometimes drink only plain water to get filled,but,he's is still gaining weight with passage of time.His whole family is fat.He as an super overweight sister who eats only a few digestive biscuits a day,which I eat the whole packet as between-meal snack.
    Reply: #328
  5. erdoke
    It is true that there is a big variation in starch tolerance among people. However, add sugar on top and it will also wreak havoc on your your metabolism...
  6. Charlotte
    If you haven't noticed, the latest research shows that Asians aren't as thin as they used to be, and their rate of diabetes has sky rocketed . Interestingly enough this change occurred simultaneously with a large increase in
    the amount of meat consumed by the average Asian.
  7. Deborah
    Coming from a Japanese heritage, myself , my mother, grandfather and many of my relatives who have favored American cooking have yo-yo weight statuses and diabetes so I don’t think the staying thin has anything to do with heritage as much as the healthy cooking practices. Most Asian meals are “fried” in less than 2 tablespoons of sesame seed oil. Meat portions in main dishes are usually served in 3 to 4 ounce portions. The larger portion of the meal is steamed vegetables flavored with a variety of sauces for flavor, not butter. Rice is generally served in a tradition blossom bowl which is usually approximately ¾ of a cup, not the heaping portions served in American restaurants. Many healthy herbs and roots are used to spice up the flavor and boost the metabolism such as ginger, variety of peppers and onions and a good dose of omega 3 is consumed in the sea food used. Serving portions and healthier cooking practices are very much the same in Paris. Very rarely do you see a wide spread case of obesity in the French population either.
  8. chris
    "asian rice eater" is racist. they are thin because they are "hard working rice farmers" more likely. doing work that is too real work for mericans. lots of spoiled american asian fatties in college. one can infer flaming is justified, and the original poster of the question has not attended an instiitute of higher learning. and americans are fat because of diabetes fried foods and life is a pointless hustle bustle rat race, that goes like this: wake up, drive thru for breakfast, work, lunch drive thru, back to work, dinner drive thru go home watch tv shower sleep repeat. stuff your face all day long. pack food in gut. really want to know why people are fat? watch the american parasite.
    Replies: #326, #342
  9. Chris
    Heather Twist, you recomended the book 'What we Eat ' but I was unable to find a book with that title. Could you please tell me the author's name Thanks.
  10. 4BLS
    You presume that all Asian people are rice farmers tending rice paddies all day. Where did you get this misguided idea? In Japan less than 4% of people work in agriculture. Most work in cubicles in offices. They sit in front of computers from 9 - 5 and try to take 2 weeks of vacation every year. In China 35% work in agriculture but 65% work in industry and services. Korea is a blend of the two with more people working in company offices. So, if you check your most Asians are NOT rice farmers. The rice farmers you are imagining disappeared long ago and have been replaced by commercial rice farming being managed by agricultural corporations. Please, check your facts before you make any sweeping, bigoted views about a whole continent of people.
    Reply: #344
  11. saif
    i lived with 2 filipinas in a was was fat.the thin one eats like a bird and likes household chores.the other one eats almost every hour and always sit infront of the tv.the thin one eats rice 3 times a day and never eats fruits and desert.the fat one of course is opposite.and thin asians not all work in the
  12. Jeff
    Im a Malaysian. My islamic faith taught me to avoid harmful diet, hence i dont eat pork. Pork contains disease and its meat is high in fats. Also westerners drink alcohol. Westerners like americans consume too much sugary starch and their diet of burgers and canned soda drinks are not healthy.
    Rice is only a small equation.
    Replies: #313, #316, #319
  13. Apicius
    Jeff: your statements are presented like fiction without any backing of facts. If you look at the world statistics of diabetes, you will see that the epidemic is worse in the Middle East than in the "westerner" regions. Here's an article from the The Economist magazine:
  14. Dan
    The comparison in the first #3 is terrible. If you've been Japan and know the Japanese people, you'd know that "an office worker" fits a typical Japanese person much better than a farmer in a rice field and as much or even more so than an American, except the average japanese businessman or office worker is still thinner. The "with a car" part is somewhat relevant because Japanese tend to walk more than Americans and may be more active in general. However, most likely it's genetics, the lack of consuming other unhealthy foods Americans/Westerners eat, and the lack of excessive portions that are responsible for Japanese and some other Asians being thinner.
  15. Miss
    Here's one thing no one seems to be considering: not all Asians live in Asia and are farmers who work hard every day to eat unrefined rice. Many Asians living in western countries buy the same rice as the rest of the population. They are not farmers, they have jobs and businesses just like their neighbors who are not Asian. To assume that all Asians do not gain weight from rice because all Asians are rice farmers in Asia is the most uneducated, ignorant garbage. Check some facts next time.
  16. Mark
    Jeff, most of these asians we are referring to are the pork eating ones so your attempt to use your faith to discredit pork holds no water. If religion does play a part in health, do explain to us the disproportionate obesity rate amongst muslims in your country.
  17. Mark
    And again to Jeff the malaysian who professes his islamic faith holds the key to his slimness. Here's something from his own country's papers that says malaysians are the fattest people in Asia!
  18. Destiny
    The tea they drink, is it sugar free totally or they do put sugar in their tea?
  19. Destiny
    I agree with you, Jeff.
    Reply: #321
  20. Leroy
    Well, the article as I read it is NOT about ALL Asians, but about those who are rural and eat a primary rice-based diet. IMO, the quote about "Japanese people" was unfortunate in that it was a totally incorrect analogy (as has been pointed out here). Examination of Japanese diet over the last several decades would have revealed that Japan's diet has become more Westernized (though not totally) more and more since 1960s - and especially over last 25 years.

    That same position (i.e., primarily rice eaters) could be negated in several areas of modern day Asia (Singapore, most of Japan, likely most of South Korea and Taiwan - and almost all urbanized areas). In many of those areas, a simple observation of even just detailed news reports would reveal both general obesity (though due to smaller frames not as readily visible often) AND the example of "skinny fat" (again, more frequent due to smaller frame sizes, but the last two acquaintances of mine who died from diabetic complications were both shorter, small framed, and never obese in the classic sense whatsoever... in fact, one would consider them, both white European descendant, as on the scrawny side - other than unclothed, when one would note that they were flabby with a very low percentage of muscle mass).

    (Note: Aside from genetics, is it not likely that diet has a large impact on frame size, height, etcetera? Anthropologists have long known that LCHF Paleolithic populations were significantly taller and more robust than their grain-based diet agriculturalist Neolithic descendants. Also, it has been observed that Asian immigrants to America - and other Western nations - who adopt Westernized diets - over a couple of generations became taller and larger framed and susceptible to a more observable obesity... just as their non immigrant urbanized peers who eat more "Westernized".)

    Throughout Asia, there are however large populations where rice is the primary caloric source - and often due to a more poverty based environment. In those cases, I believe that the observations of "thinness" boils down to consumption of fairly low calories (low fat consumption) and skinny fat due to lower protein consumption AND the component of very significant activity (one would also note that those people tend to have a much lowering span and age more quickly. (I would also point out that several works - and personal observations - show that poorer people, as well as Asians who eat rice in general, much more highly prefer white rice over brown rice).

    My own observations (granted from some time ago) was that the higher up the economic scale, the more meat and the less rice was eaten. I recall a couple of meals from what I would call lower upper class where very little rice was consumed. And interestingly, to me, in both cases it was explained that a small amount of (white) rice was eaten "to cleanse the palate" (due to its blandness). I also noted that in the (then) primarily rural, agricultural areas that rice was 75-90% of the diet. I saw very little (extremely little) fruit or berry eating. Rice was supplemented with smaller amounts of vegetables (most farmers were of course small plot farmers and didn't have land resources to grow a lot of rice and vegetables) and meat as able (most families had a few free-range chickens and some would also have a pig. There would be quite a few water buffalo which were however used as draft animals and only rarely slaughtered for food when too old to work. In areas of higher economic strata, having a larger vegetable garden, more chickens, and more pigs was the norm (the REAL Okinawan Diet, for example, is very heavy in chicken and especially pork - and lard is, by far, the primary cooking oil).

    My two cents worth, IMHO.

  21. Apicius
    News article: Malaysia is Southeast Asia's Fattest Country.

    My conclusion is that if they increase pork, lard, meat - as well as cut out sugar - they will reverse their current obesity epidemic.

  22. tara
    Asians are no longer as thin. Their supermarkets are mostly full of packaged food, there are 7-11 and other convenience stores at every corner, and their "fast-food," while still based on traditional meals, come with prepackaged, processed sauces, and with recooked meats. Workweeks are 50 plus hours, and school days around 12 hours, so there is little time for exercise, and people very often grab on the go. Most people drive rather than walk. In short, while they are presently still the thinnest people in the world, rarely do you see a "toned" or athletic person, and they will soon be facing the same dietary problems as in America and the western countries.
  23. Rayca
    @Charlotte. Asians have higher incidence of diabetes because they brought American fast food to their culture. Meat doesn't give you diabetes. Junk food is the evil that will ultimately take down the weak of many cultures.
  24. Elaine
    Asians are scrawny as they have no muscle mass but some are fat. They usually eat a lot of carbs
    mainly rice and steamed bread by the ton. Its no wonder they have diabetes problems. High carb diet is not good for the pancreas.
  25. Chrissy
    I am no expert by any means, but I do have one observation. Several years ago I could not lose ANY weight by my own methods. I finally went to a gym and got a personal trainer. The diet she put me on was unusual to me. One protein, one carb, (a little smaller than normal portions) 3 times a day, didn't matter what they were, then dinner meat and vegetable. The weight came off. My thought when reading this was that the Asian diet usually consists of the same, protein and carb. Rice yes, (white, don't know where the author got that they eat brown rice) but they always have a little protein with it, fish, pork beef. Anyway, like I said just an observation.
  26. Kate
    .....because "asian rice eater" is racist and insensitive but "american parasite" or "spoiled american asian fatties" is okay? A very clear indication of how limited your intellect is. Viewing information from all sources in a balanced and non-judgemental way means we actually learn. Letting your own hang-ups, criticisms and hatred taint any quest for understanding and information is not only limiting, but is one of the many ways we block progress globally.
  27. Havolas
    Anyone eating a low protein, low fat, high fibrous plant carbs diet while moving their bodies vigorously (carrying water, chopping wood, etc) like traditional Asian cultures would naturally have small (but STRONG muscles) and a low body fat percentage. How hard is that to understand?

    That description simply doesn't match our modern lifestyle of unnatural man made foods and a mostly sedentary lifestyle.

    It is time to start thinking and acting as if we lived in the Old World environment as much as possible if we want better health.

    Getting up with the sun, getting morning sun on our body (even when its cold out), walking barefoot on the earth regularly, eating foods similar to those you would have found only in nature or from the products of hunting/fishing wild fish/seafood and game.

    This excludes factory meats pumped full of antibiotics and hormones.

    This excludes factory farmed fish/seafood.

    This excludes most modern dairy.

    This excludes man made "food" in a box or bag.

    Etc., etc.

    This INCLUDES wild caught fish, wild game (not corn-baited preferably), a variety of greens (especially leafy), sweet and sour berries, roots (like carrots and sweet potatoes), small fruits (unlike giant excessively sweetened and hybridized apples), a variety of nuts, etc.

    Then try to think seasonally, and also think like a forager, where you will gather many varieties of foods that make up your meals (especially the greens and vegetables).

    Finally, since you are a modern human, and you are not chopping wood and carrying water or farming or gardening or foraging or climbing trees all day, you must get in some heavy lifting using your muscles (this is what keeps the carbs in check). Air squats, deadlifts, lifting heavy stuff above your head -- great things for you.

    Your organs use about 10g of carbs (glucose) an hour whether you are lying down or working out (5 to 6 grams is burned by your brain every hour non-stop until you die).

    That glucose will either come from diet or from gluconeogenesis.

    Because it is very hard to assay how many of the carbs you eat will wind up in muscle tissue and the liver, sedentary people should always assume their muscles are chock full of glucose already. This way, a sedentary person (without other metabolic derangement) can safely eat 40g of HEALTHY FIBROUS VEGGIE SOURCED net carbs every 4 hours (mealtimes) and keep yourself from gaining any more fat from old habits of eating excess carbs.

    Keep your protein up in the 75-100g range daily to maintain your lean mass (preferably from high DHA, low mercury wild caught fish like sardines or salmon with some small amounts of wild game).

    Keep your saturated fat intake low (this is, after all, mainly animal fat -- and YOU my friend are an animal too!)

    Eat healthy whole food plant fats.

    Limit your total intake of fats to create a small 20-ish% caloric deficit below your estimated TDEE.

    Have one or two days a week where you eat above your TDEE to keep your metabolism from crashing, and you will see progress.

    Good luck!!

  28. robynpod
    When I went to SE Asia as a pregnant 25 year old, walked everywhere, ate meat/chicken soup based 'meal' 5-6 times a day : Stock, a few noodles, lots of vegs and a few slices of meat - delicious. In 6 weeks we were lean muscle. Only problem was local market smells made me throw up. I craved chocolate milk which was hard to get. Ate an occasional pancake and seasonal fruit, but no other sugar. Very healthy 9lb baby. Second pregnancy back home : sick as a dog, little exercise as had 2 year old and felt awful, massive fluid weight gain, early delivery due to strain on kidneys, but baby fine. Battling weight gain in post menopause years. I think the 'soup and walk" lifestyle is the solution.
  29. Jezebel
    So true.
  30. Jezebel
    To the writer of this article your 3 big reasons is not correct. I've had Asian flatmates and I have Asians in my family. Asians may not eat a lot of refined sugar but they do consume a moderate amount. Where do you get brown rice from, their diet is high in white rice/white noodles/rice noodles with a bit of meat and veg thrown in. Brown rice is not consumed that much at all. Not all Asians are big on physical activities like working on farms, what about the billions of Chinese that work in offices for long hours, they are all slim built. Perhaps it comes down to genes and nothing else. Like my family genes, we eat so little, avoiding carbs, sweets, fat and fit in exercise 4-5 times a week and yet have no luck in loosing weight. If we didn't do all this we may end up obese, so we work hard to maintain our 'over weight', however, despite all the hard work and a good diet we loose little to no weight.
    Reply: #330
  31. Jezebel,
    Unfortunately these days people in Asia consume both white rich and plenty of sugar. The result? There is now a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes in China than in the US!!! Not just more people with diabetes, but also a higher percentage of people!

    Are they still thin? Not so much. While the average BMI may still look not so bad, pretty much all those Chinese type 2 diabetics with "normal" BMI are skinny fat, meaning they are not muscular and they've got plenty of unwanted belly fat.

    Reply: #333
  32. Sana
    I don't like how you use probably in most of your answers. It makes me feel like you are not sure of what you saying and this diet may not work if I tried doing it
    Reply: #332
  33. tony
    You did not grasp what the doctor said.

    Dr, Eenfeldt said "If you avoid sugar (fructose) and refined high GI starch and stay physically active you can probably stay thin and healthy on a high percentage of carbs. Lots of populations have done so," clearly referring to the Asian diet. He recommends LCHF, not the Asian diet!

  34. AnnaLisse
    The Chinese and other Asian cultures are suffering the diseases of affluence since they are now able to consume high amount of animal products, processed sweets, saturated fats and refined carbohydrates in their diet. For your information, white rice was introduced by the west for the west's economic profits, which kick-started the undernourishment of these societies. Prior to this, brown rice was the staple grain, as were vegetables, pulses, nuts, seafood, small amount of animal products, and vegetable oils. Dairy was not consumed.

    The idea that the Chinese and the rest of the westernised, fattened Asian nations should now consume a high fat low carb diet is an atrocious and most deplorable advice as it will further promote the continuation of these western diseases. The best diet these people could adhere to is one that promotes nutrient health. The Asian Diet that includes whole brown rice is the ideal diet as it will cover all nutrient deficiencies, not only for the Asian societies, but indeed globally.

  35. Kai Jones
    Asians drink tea that they claim break down fat and also may contain caffeine which boosts heart rate and energy which burn calories.
  36. tony
    Chairman Mao and Comrade Kim are not thin.
    Malaysians are getting fatter and fatter each day because everytime you go out, there's fast food restaurants and cheap stalls everywhere. My mom was slim when she's younger and KFC was considered expensive and only should be consumed for special occasion not like these days where people are getting more lazier to cook food at home. In fact food like rendang, curry and even nasi lemak is only been made for special occasions and for the royals in the olden times and not to eat for breakfast everyday. Malaysians don't even walk in short distance to buy small items but rather use a car and a motorcycle, I guess it's because the crime rates is increasing and people are afraid. But there's some healthy habits people still adopt such as there's must be soup, rice and vegetables in every meal and even KFC provide rice and soup to the customers. Fruits is also so easy to get and very cheap and it's not surprising to find a stall sell fruits and vegetables even near a supermarket. Just stay far away from rich foods and sugary drinks(if you do, please try to eat them in small portions, my mom and my aunt got diabetes because they love to eat those everyday) and try to incorporate your grandparents healthy eating habits and physical fitness in your life and stick with it. I try some of the healthy habits and it's seriously help me considering if I don't, I would get diabetes as well. 90% diet, 10% excercise.
  38. 1 comment removed
  39. Jay
    Carbs do not cause people to be fat, fats and over eating animal based products are the cause. Middle Eastern populations, Chinese and other Asian cultures are all thin and trim on a high carb diet. US is fat as well as other populations that eat a ton of dairy and meats as well as fats. Down south people eat tons of meat and fried foods and are huge!
  40. jade
    Thank you everyone this all helped good and bad comments.. ..thank you?
  41. Daniel
    As already mentioned in some comments, some of the presumptions are quite prejudiced. Poverty levels in the United States are higher than in Japan, which is, together with South Korea, Taiwan and the city states Singapore and Hongkong, a developed nation. Farmers here make up a tiny percentage of the population and farming does not mean they are waddling through rice fields with an ox walking barefoot. Check your stereotypes!
    Furthermore, traditional diets vary a lot, Mongolia traditionally did not have rice but a diet rich in meat and fats, but we might leave that aside and look at the rice eating cultures where people are still slim. I can only talk about South Korea because I am living here, but it is true, as someone mentioned, that most rice consumption is based on white rice. However, many people know brown rice has much more health benefits and try to adjust their diet, but overall the percentage will be small. You hear often that brown rice and grains used to be part of poorer peoples' diet who could not afford polished white rice but I do not know if this is true and when this changed.
    I can also confirm that fatty meat is consumed a lot, pork belly is a popular and expensive meat, for example.
    I do not think though that genetics is a dominating factor when it comes to obesity, though it might play some role, since Asian people who fully adjust to a western diet suffer just the same consequences of weight gain and health problems.
    Koreans have, as far as I am informed, the lowest obesity rate of all OECD countries, but they are definitely catching up as eating habits change. This concerns not only sugary soda drinks but also sweetened coffee drinks, cake, sweets, biscuits and fast food, though traditional cuisine is relatively resilient in comparison to other countries.

    After all, I would agree with those who say the main reason for Asian people in rice eating cultures to stay relatively slim is because of
    1. relatively low sugar consumption (unfortunately changing)
    2. high consumption of vegetables and fibre
    3. relatively low consumption of processed foods besides white rice.
    4. Maybe it does play a certain role that these countries have had a traditional diet based on rice for thousands of years which might have influenced the genetic profile, but find this a little speculative.

    Thus, I would think people here are slim not because of but despite high white rice consumption.

    Reply: #341
  42. Annalisse
    White rice was encouraged as a staple by European colonists in the late 1800s. The reason, as usual, was money. European colonists wanted to export a grain that would not go rancid during the transportation. Up until then, the majority of the Asian nations consumed brown rice and white rice was reserved for the very wealthy, who incidentally were the sickest and suffered rickets and other diseases of affluence. Sugar was a Chinese invention and was used as a condiment. Likewise seed oils such as sesame oil. The Mongolian populations that consumed dairy as a staple had and continue to have high levels of CVD. The amounts of rice that have been noted to be consumed would approximate to about 3 - 4 cups of cooked rice per day up until after WWII. Some small animal protein and its fat would also be consumed with each meal, and large amounts of vegetables with each serving of food was also the norm.
  43. deborah
    Reply: #343
  44. Annalisse
    Interesting link - with a rep from Bayer/Monstersanto sitting in the Board of Trustees. Won't be long before these criminals push heavily their GMO rice.

    Another western food calamity on the way.

  45. Cindy
    Thank you for saying that! I have found website helpful so far until reading the explanation for thin Asians which almost completely negates the credibility of the site. What an uneducated explanation. Please correct it.
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    From Georgia
  47. Gentiann
    Asians are at a greater risk of diabetes, despite being thin..........eating a lot of rice is probably one of the main cause.
    I have been living with Asians for many years and ate exactly the same food, I never drank soda and avoided sugar, but I gained over 40 pounds in 10 years and kept wondering why those Asian women did not gain weight while eating more than I did (they were snacking and I was not)... Finally, I stopped eating the rice and noodles and I lost the weight. I believe that they have a different metabolism than people from European origin but that does not mean they are more healthy!!!
  48. 1 comment removed
  49. Alice
    "compare a Japanese rice farmer (in the field all day) to an American office worker with a car" What a solid comparison. How is this an acceptable grounds for scientific deduction? "traditionally more physical activity".."poverty"? This was written in 2012, not 1988. Hardly a period of national poverty for East Asian nations. I'm taken aback by the cultural, historical, and scientific ignorance in this article. Further appalled by the fact that most of the comments don't even notice it. Please go educate yourself and refrain from spreading misinformation Dr.Eenfeldt. You obviously need a dose of culture outside your own. Unconvincing article, outstanding example of white ignorance.
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