Environment Designer rice could help beat disease

Designer rice could help beat disease

Scientists have discovered how to increase the production of resistant starch in rice, which could improve the health of more than half the world’s population.

University of Tasmania School of Biological Sciences Professor Steven Smith is an expert on starch production in plants. He is working on improving the nutritional quality of rice which is a staple of more than half the world’s population.

Professor Smith has discovered the two genes which influence the amount of resistant starch produced by the rice. Starch is a complex carbohydrate, but is made up only of glucose, so if starch is rapidly digested in the intestines it can provide a ‘sugar hit’.

“Not only does resistant starch reduce the likelihood of a ‘sugar hit’ but it also reduces the appetite and promotes the growth of the healthy microbes,” Professor Smith said.

As Asian countries are seeing an increase in the incidence of diabetes and obesity, increasing the resistant starch content of rice could provide a way to help limit such health problems. The same approach could be adapted for use in other cereals, including wheat, Professor Smith said.

“Not only can it have benefits for diabetes and obesity, but also for disorders of the bowel including cancer.”

You can read more about this project here. Story credit: University of Tasmania Media Centre.

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