More Filipino consumers are becoming aware of the health benefits of low-glycemic index (GI) rice according to a study by the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute (DA-PhilRice) on consumers’ awareness, behavior, and knowledge of rice and rice-based products.

“Results of our study showed that majority of our respondents from all 17 regions in the country had high level of awareness on GI,” Riza G. Abilgos-Ramos, supervising science research specialist of DA-PhilRice’s Rice Chemistry and Food Science Division (RCFSD) and one of the researchers, said.

GI is a value assigned to foods based on how slowly or how quickly those foods cause increases in blood glucose levels.

Abilgos-Ramos explained that foods with low GI, such as brown rice, are recommended for controlling blood sugar levels because these release glucose in the body slowly after intake.

“White or polished rice has high GI. Consumption of this is associated with increased risk of diabetes,” she said.

However, despite the high level of awareness, Abilgos-Ramos stated that more than 75% of the respondents still consume polished or white rice at least twice a day. She also noted that although all respondents signified interest in rice with naturally low-GI, only half of them are willing to consume brown rice.

“Identifying factors that influence food behavior among consumers is also key in improving diet to lower the risk of diabetes mellitus, which is one of the top five non-communicable diseases (NCDs) causing deaths among Filipinos,” Abilgos-Ramos explained.

The study showed that primary considerations of consumers when buying food are taste, satiety, and nutritional value.

Abilgos-Ramos said that their team will further study the reasons why despite their awareness and willingness to buy low-GI rice, the majority of the respondents are still consuming white rice.

The researchers recommended that a campaign on consumption of whole grains, particularly brown rice, should be intensified.

As an offshoot of this research, Rosaly V. Manaois, senior science research specialist of RCFSD and one of the researchers, said that they are now doing a more in-depth market study focused on millennials.

“Millenials represent a group where interventions for prevention of NCDs, particularly diabetes mellitus, would be most useful,” she shared.

This study, which was conducted by Abilgos-Ramos, Manaois, and Alcel B. Atanacio also of RCFSD, bagged the Best Scientific Poster award under the Social Sciences category during the 43rd Annual Scientific Meeting (ASM) of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) on July 12-15, 2021.

The ASM is an annual event of the NAST, which serves as the leading forum for the presentation of scientific and policy research. It is considered the most prestigious scientific conference in the country.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute