Dr Ioannis Mavromichalis
Rice has long been recognised for its gastrointestinal soothing
properties. Diarrhoeas in children are still being addressed with just boiled
rice in many parts of the world. But, so far we have had only speculations of
how rice improves health and which components of it are responsible for such
Rice has long been recognised for its gastrointestinal soothing properties.
Diarrhoeas in children are still being addressed with just boiled rice in many
parts of the world. But, so far we have had only speculations of how rice
improves health and which components of it are responsible for such
Very recently, in the Journal of the Science of Food &
Agriculture, a Japanese research team led by Dr Jamagishi reported that
rice, but not wheat, is able to enhance the 'Complement System' of the immune
system. This brings to me dear memories of my graduate years long time ago, and
I believe some basic immunology is unavoidable here if we're to fully understand
the significance of this finding.
So, please bear with me as I did back
The Complement System
The Complement System is an
integral part of our immune system. It is not antigen (pathogen) specific, but
when it is triggered it enhances and multiplies the response of our specific
immune system. For those wanting more details, the Complement System, in the
form of zymogen proteins, cleaves proteins circulating in the blood releasing
The end result is a massive amplification of our immune
response that kills and clears from the organism invading pathogens. So,
anything that stimulates the Complement System is beneficial; in measure of
course because overactivation can bring its own problems (some believe this is
one of the causes of arthritis).
Back to the
Japanese study. The above research team did comparative studies with
Glycyrrhiza uralensis, rice, and wheat. The first is a medicinal herb
with well known immunological properties. Rice and wheat, of course, are common
It was discovered that the water-soluble polysaccharides
in rice have similar properties as the polysaccharides in glycyrriza. Wheat had
no such effect! Lesson number one: all polysaccharides are not created equal!
Lesson number two: rice polysaccharides clearly stimulate the activation of the
The above findings verify
the experimental and practical observations in animals, and especially in young
ones, in which when pigs are fed rice-based diets they almost always perform
better than others fed maize-, wheat-, or barley-based diets. It follows the
effect of rice should be expected stronger in disease-challenged animals, if
we're to accept this mode of action through the immune system.
probably also explains why in some trials, rice-fed animals did not fare any
better than those fed diets based on other cereals. They were simply not in need
of any immune-stimulating action!
This is an exciting discovery, with
implications in human and animal nutrition and health. More research is now
required to transfer these findings into applicable products! Of course, for our
pigs, feeding those expensive pre-starter diets with rice now makes a bit more
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