New low-glycemic rice helps curb obesity and diabetes

• By Herry Utomo, Ida Wenefrida and Bob Butcher •

frontiere rice

Foundation seed of low glycemic Frontiére rice at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station, Crowley, Louisiana — photo by Herry Utomo

Diabetes is a worldwide problem affecting more than 463 million people (9.3% of world population). In the United States alone, more than 34.2 million people have diabetes (10.5% of the U.S. population), and 88 million people aged 18 years or older have prediabetes (34.5% of the adult U.S. population).

Worldwide, diabetes prevalence is estimated to rise to 10.2% (578 million) by 2030 and 10.9% (700 million) by 2045. Diabetes is among the top 10 causes of death in adults and has caused 4.2 million deaths globally. The key to curbing diabetes emphasizes prevention through dietary and nutrition management with the goal of maintaining stable and safe levels of postprandial blood glucose concentration.

The availability of low glycemic rice can support this dietary management approach by minimizing spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.

Low-glycemic rice

Frontiére is a low-glycemic rice developed by Louisiana State University AgCenter scientists that will be available in the market later in 2021. This low-glycemic rice is a non-GMO developed using conventional mutational breeding methodologies.

bowl of low-glycemic rice

Cooked low glycemic white rice — photo by Herry Utomo

There are three groups of glycemic ratings for food — low with a glycemic index of 55 or less, medium with a glycemic index of 56-69 and high with a glycemic index of 70 or more. In general, high carbohydrate food, such as wheat, has an average glycemic index of 74; potato, 78; and corn, 55.

Rice has an average glycemic index of 73 and, therefore, is categorized as a high-glycemic food source. The newly invented low-glycemic rice has an average rating of 41, which is 14 points lower than the upper margin to be classified in a low glycemic group. It has the lowest glycemic index ever reported in commercially viable rice.

Low-glycemic index and gluten-free

A low-glycemic rice will transform rice from a natural source of “bad” carbohydrates to “good” carbohydrates. Consumption of lower glycemic foods can help prevent unnecessary snacking and excessive calorie consumption, thereby making this low-glycemic rice an important factor in obesity prevention.

Because rice is a gluten-free food, low-glycemic rice will provide additional health benefits for consumers of gluten-free products, including those traditional nonrice-eating communities. The gluten-sensitive people who suffer from coeliac disease, noncoeliac gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia and dermatitis herpetiformis now have an opportunity to include a low-glycemic rice into their diet. Low-glycemic diets have been known to reduce risks of cancer, heart disease and other medical conditions.

Taste, grain appearance and cooking quality 

grains of low-glycemic rice

Low glycemic white rice — photo by Ida Wenefrida

The AgCenter-invented low-glycemic rice tastes similarly to regular Southern rice varieties, such as Cypress, Cocodrie and CL 151. Low-glycemic rice is slightly softer when cooked, but there are no conspicuous color differences in either the cooked or uncooked white and brown rice compared to the three regular Southern rice varieties. The low-glycemic rice will be marketed as Cahokia in the northern parts of the United States and Prairie Acadian Rice in the southern part of the United States

Currently, the LSU AgCenter H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station scientists are working to develop a newer version of a lower-glycemic rice to improve yields. Promising lines developed from different genetic backgrounds are in the pipeline using the same technology previously used in developing the first low-glycemic rice. Preliminary yield data collected in 2018 and 2019 identified yield potential improvement of 11%-17% compared to current low glycemic rice.

Herry Utomo is a professor and the F. Avalon Daggett Endowed Professor, and Ida Wenefrida is an associate professor at the H. Rouse Caffey Rice Research Station in Crowley, Louisiana. Bob Butcher is with Shanghai Farm LLC, Round Ridge, New York.