News & Events

Rice-Based Diet Effective for Preventing Adult Diseases

By Soh Ji-young
The Korea Times, February 18, 2004

The drop in rice consumption is making Koreans more overweight and vulnerable to various adult diseases, a research institute said on Wednesday.

In a study conducted by the Research Institute for Healthcare Policy under the Korean Medical Association, Korea's traditional rice-based diet was found to be very effective in preventing diabetes and heart ailments common in Western countries.

The research results, released in a seminar at the Korea Press Center in Seoul, was based on a four-month joint research project analyzing Koreans' diet and health. Yoo Tai-woo, professor of Seoul National University's college of medicine, and seven other local researchers took part in the project.

According to the study, a rice-based diet protects people's health by blocking the body from excessive calories and animal fat and by offering a balanced diet.

As Koreans' eating habits become increasingly westernized, a growing number of people are overweight and suffering from heart attacks, researchers said.

"Korea's traditional diet based on rice and kimchi has been effective in preventing people from acquiring diseases such as diabetes and heart illnesses," Yoo said.

"But as people eat more high-fat and high-calorie foods such as fast foods, Western dishes and meats, cases of adult illnesses among the public is on a steady rise," he said.

Over the past few decades, Korean's consumption of rice, the staple food of the Korean diet, has recorded a marked decline, pushing local governments and farming organizations to launch public campaigns to eat more rice.

According to statistics provided by the Korea Rural Economic Institute, the daily supply of rice per capita fell from 351.1 grams in 1986 to 249.48 grams in 2002, a drop of nearly 30 percent.

But during the same period, per capita supply of meat more than doubled to 107.43 grams from 47 grams, with the supply of flour also increasing to 94.9 grams from 86.3 grams.

The percentage rice took up as an energy source of the total diet also fell to 31 percent in 2002 from the 48.9 percent in 1986.

Researchers emphasized that to maintain a better diet, people should consume more rice, water and fruits and refrain from eating too salty or partially-burnt foods, which are linked to stomach cancer. Skipping meals, excessively drinking and dining out should also be avoided.

"In the case of women, more than half suffer from osteoporosis due to lack of calcium in their diet," Yoo said, adding that they should drink plenty of milk.