A new type of rice could soon be joining the usual brown and white varieties on the shelves of your grocery store: purple rice. Chinese scientists have developed a type of rice through genetic modification that they say can lower your risk of some types of cancer and diabetes. On the surface, this sounds like a winning proposition – and for those who sell the rice, it very well could be. However, there are a few reasons you might want to think twice before eating this colorful grain.
The science backing the benefits of the compound that colors this rice is pretty solid. The rice gets its violet hue from anthocyanins, a type of pigment that boosts antioxidants. It is naturally abundant in certain fruits and vegetables, and it has indeed been shown to have numerous health benefits. In addition to their protective effect against diabetes and cancer, anthocyanins have also been linked in studies to lower risks of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and neurological disease. In addition, they have a strong anti-inflammatory action and can even help control or prevent obesity.
This is certainly an impressive list of benefits, but why would anyone want to eat genetically engineered rice made using a system called TransGene Stacking II when they could get the same effects from the foods that grow naturally on our earth?
This food is far from natural, and scientists have gone to great lengths to create it. Past attempts to engineer the production of anthocyanin in rice were unsuccessful because of difficulties transferring the genes into plants effectively.
Researchers are still assessing the safety of this Frankenfood, but it could end up being about as good for you as purple ketchup. No one knows what long-term effects consuming these lab-created foods could have on the human body. A similar attempt at enriching rice through genetic modification, golden rice, ended up being a huge flop that ultimately made headlines for its connection to birth defects rather than saving the world.
Lab-created rice does what lots of natural foods already do
If you really want to eat foods that can reduce your risk of cancer and diabetes, there are plenty of healthy choices that are completely natural. Instead of buying this GMO rice for its anthocyanins, consider foods that are naturally anthocyanin-rich, like organic purple carrots, blueberries, red cabbage, plums, and black rice. This is a great way to get the same beneficial compounds without taking on any of the risks that comes with lab-created foods.
There are other foods that can reduce your risk of the same ailments that purple rice aims to tackle, and they also offer other health benefits that purple rice does not. For example, red grapes not only have anthocyanins, but the polyphenols in their skin also help regulate glucose. Another useful food for diabetes prevention is cinnamon, which can help improve blood sugar regulation by boosting your glucose metabolism, providing insulin-like effects to your body. Of course, anyone who is serious about preventing diabetes also needs to cut out junk food (including extra carbs), maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
When it comes to preventing cancer, nature has provided an array of great options. Breakthrough research recently confirmed that the omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like wild salmon and chia seeds can stop tumors in their tracks and boost a person’s chances of surviving cancers like colorectal cancer.
You should also consider eating cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Their sulforaphane can help destroy cancer cells, and they also contain phytochemicals and antioxidants that help detoxify your body and get rid of carcinogens before they can harm you.
Who needs GMO purple rice when nature has already given us so many great health-enhancing foods?