Korea develops diabetes, atopy-easing rice
Those on a low-carbohydrate diet that includes dramatically reducing portions of their daily rice intake may want to think again.
According to Ryu Su-noh, a professor at Korea National Open University, consuming the rice cultivated through the special method he and his research team discovered could help ease the condition of atopic allergies and even diabetes.
The agriculture scientist this week officially publicly announced the fruits of his 13-year research efforts, even though he had made the discovery three years ago. Ryu said he and his team are the first in the world to develop the three kinds of rice grains - "super jami (pigment)," "daerip jami," and "keunnun jami."
The first breed has the highest amount of cyanidin 3-glucoside (C3G) among the three, carrying 10 times more than the already existing "heuk jinju" rice currently widely known for harboring the highest amount of C3G. The daerip jami carries four times more C3G, while the keunnun jami contains high levels of GABA, or the amino acid gamma-aminobutyric acid, and two to three times more C3G.
According to Ryu's research results, the super jami has the effect of alleviating the symptoms of atopic dermatitis and lowering blood sugar levels. Animal tests showed that consuming the super jami rice could ease itching, or atopic dermatitis, conditions by up to 71 percent.
The super jami could also be a good choice for diabetics because it lowered glucose levels to 43.7 percent, Ryu's animal tests showed. Meanwhile, animals that were fed grapes had sugar levels of 100 percent, while the level came out as 53.5 percent when they were fed standard regular rice.
"The rice grains are not meant to be a treatment, because they are not a form of medicine," Ryu told The Korea Herald in a telephone interview. "These grains are recommended for managing a healthy and nutritious diet and are not for medical purposes."
The food expert also recommended that the special functional rice grains should be consumed by mixing with standard white rice rather than alone.
He said he was able to make a public announcement of his discovery because the research earned credibility by getting published in the Journal of Food Science under the U.S.-based Institute of Food Technologists. The essay on his research was published in last month's issue.
The Journal of Food Science is touted as a respected science journal that covers "peer-reviewed reports of original research and critical review of all aspects of food science," according to the IFT website.
Ryu was quick to note that his rice grains are not a form of genetically modified organism in aims to assure the rice crops are safe for human consumption.
"Our rice grains have no safety issues, and the merits and unique aspects of our rice cultivation technology are that it offers a high production capacity, fosters rice carrying rich health benefits, and is easy for farmers to apply," the professor said.
Ryu's research is backed by the Rural Development Administration, a government-run agency devoted to promoting development of the nation's agriculture industry for economic benefits.
The researcher estimates that cultivation of 330 hectares of the special rice could generate 14.9 billion won in net profit for farmers.
"We believe we could strengthen the global competitiveness of our rice market and thereby help raise our rice farmers' income," the grain specialist said.
Korean farmers of the staple grain are suffering from declining rice consumption amid market opening, and the government is ambitiously aiming to reverse the trend by promoting consumption through the development of rice-based industries. These would include processed rice products like noodles and alcoholic beverages, such as "makgeolli," Korean traditional rice wine.
Interested farmers will be able to take a stab at Ryu's cultivating technology through a contract to buy the special seeds, as the rice grains have been patented.
"We don't plan to provide the seeds to private individuals, but rather only to agricultural cooperatives or farming groups," the agriculture doctor noted.
He said one seed is expected to cost five times more than that of regular white rice.
"We'll have to leave the price to the market once we officially begin supplying the seeds next year."
This would mean consumers will be able to find the super jami, daerip jami and keunnun jami at the market in one to two years, Ryu projected.
"The three rice cultivation technologies have been patented not only in Korea but also Japan and the United States, as we also eventually expect to export the rice abroad," he said.