Study finds rice bran chocked full of nutrients

rice bran
Photo courtesy Colorado State University

It may come as no surprise to some within the U.S. rice industry, but a recent study found rice bran has a high nutritional value and is a rich source of proteins, fats, minerals and micronutrients.

Researchers from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., published their findings in the open-access journal “Rice.” Their work suggests that rice bran, removed from whole grain during milling and used as animal feed, could have human health and nutrition benefits.

“A single serving of rice bran – 28 grams according to USDA – delivers more than half of a person’s daily requirements of important vitamins such as thiamine, niacin and vitamin B6,” Professor Elizabeth Ryan, corresponding author, said in a university news release.

In the past, rice bran has been viewed as a cheap source of fiber and lipids, such as for cooking oil. It has not been used much in human health and nutrition.

The researchers used food metabolomics, or “foodomics,” to identify and measure the different molecules in a food. The technique uses a sophisticated biochemical technique called mass spectrometry.

They examined amino acids, vitamins, cofactors and secondary metabolites found in rice brand.

“We were surprised to find that cofactors, vitamins and amino acids make up almost 50 percent of the total small molecule content,” Ryan said in the release.

A cofactor is a non-protein chemical compound—also considered helper molecules—required for a protein’s biological activity to occur.

A literature search found previous studies identified some of the compounds to have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-hypertensive properties. Rice bran also has a protein content of 12-15 percent that may be overlooked.

“Although only limited information was available on how well individual compounds will be usable by the human body after ingestion, the biochemical composition of rice bran merits further investigation for nutritional therapies and medical food applications,” she said.

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