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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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February 01 2012

The “Asian Paradox”: How Can Asians Eat So Much Rice and Not Gain Weight?

By Mark Sisson
454 Comments

How the Primal community loves the concept of a dietary paradox. How we eagerly point to its various manifestations as supportive evidence for our way of eating, living, and moving. You know the French Paradox and how it confounds the experts. To mention all those smug surrender monkeys with their brie and their butter and their duck confit and their Gauloises and their seeming imperviousness to heart attacks is to make Dean Ornish binge on bran and pull out tuft after tuft of frizzy hair. And then there’s the lesser-known Israeli Paradox, which attempts to answer why Israelis have skyrocketing rates of heart disease despite a skyrocketing intake of “healthy” omega-6 fatty acids. In its wake, Walter Willet might be found weeping into a mug of safflower oil. There’s even an American Paradox – those who ate the most saturated fat had the least coronary heart disease – that had the minds of researchers thoroughly boggled.

All those paradoxes work out in “our favor.” Saturated fat gets off pretty much scot-free and omega-6 vegetable oils get raked over the coals (and, presumably, oxidized). And if people were honest about things, they would see these paradoxes not as paradoxes, but as reasons to reevaluate previously-held beliefs about health and diet.

But what about the Asian Paradox? How can Asian countries consume so much white rice and so many noodles and remain so thin? If carbs make you fat, how do they eat so many of them? This is a question I get from Mark’s Daily Apple readers all of the time, so it’s about time I gave a thorough response.

First of all, I want to confirm that Asia eats a lot of rice. It may be a “side dish” or not the main course, but there’s no dancing around the fact that a lot of rice gets eaten – the stats (PDF) are pretty clear on Asian rice consumption. I briefly covered the Asian Paradox in the rice post, but I think the subject deserves more than a brief paragraph. So, today, I’m going to explain why the Asian Paradox (like all “paradoxes,” really) isn’t actually a paradox, and why I consider it to happily coexist with all of the other Primal-friendly paradoxes. I’ll also explain why I think the Asian Paradox offers us Primals a chance to evaluate our own beliefs (because that’s the only honest thing to do).

They Move(d) Frequenty at a Slow Pace

Whenever I’m in a large city with a sizable Asian immigrant population, I notice a different approach to walking. For instance, Carrie and I were recently visiting San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. We spent the day just walking around and getting sort of lost, and we both noticed the difference. Of all the multitudes of people walking, jogging, and otherwise being active, everyone but the older Asian folks seemed to be actively exercising. Exercising on purpose. Trying to “burn calories” or “improve VO2 max.” We noticed as a young mother with strollered child powerwalked down the path, wearing compression tights, a baseball cap, and the latest running shoes, while the elderly Chinese grandma she passed wore some keds and a knit sweater. Two seemingly identical joggers (one in Vibrams!) with Bluetooth earpieces jabbed at each other with business-speak opposite a pair of old friends strolling along and loudly speaking (in another language) of politics and times long past (again, it was another language) in well-worn suits and loafers. A group of cyclists could have passed for pros with all their gear and advertisements and special cycling shoes, while an older Asian gentleman wearing a collared shirt and slacks cruised by on a simple ten-speed. I got the distinct impression that walking or cycling or just getting around using your own limbs as the vehicles was simply a way to get from here to there for the older Asian folks. It wasn’t a special occasion. It was an everyday occurrence. It was normal. For everyone else, it was exercise. It was a big event that you had to get geared up and spend money for. Exercise is great, and walking with intent of getting healthier is great – I do it all the time. But my observations speak to a huge cultural difference between the way older Asian folks who immigrated over (and, presumably, the cultures back at home) and Americans treat moving frequently at a slow pace.

People living in Asian countries have historically been more active than people living in the States. It’s not that they’re all lifting weights and running sprints and joining gyms; it’s that their average daily activity levels are higher. And as everyone here probably already knows, the simple act of walking on a regular basis does wonders for one’s health. Daily walking is consistently associated with (among other health benefits) improved insulin sensitivity (better tolerance of carbohydrates like white rice), better moodlowered blood pressure and triglycerides, and greater longevity. America is a car country, and has been for about a hundred years. We don’t – and haven’t for over 50 years – have to walk to get around. Heck, oftentimes we can’t walk to get where we want to go even if we wanted to walk, since many of us live in a kind of suburban sprawl that requires the use of cars just to buy groceries or take the kids to school. The result is a country that takes fewer steps per day than the rest of the world. As Asians start buying more cars, relying more on vehicular transportation, and moving further away from labor-intensive work, I suspect you’ll see more carbohydrate intolerance, fat gain, and general ill health begin to emerge. It’s already happening, as you’ll see.

I think daily activity levels are probably the biggest determinant in tolerance to carbs. In American cities where walking is required or more convenient than driving, like New York, people are generally healthier, slimmer, and longer-lived. Things are changing, though. In 1989, 65% of Chinese performed heavy labor on a daily basis. By 2000, that proportion had dropped to 50% – still far more than in Western nations, but the downward trend is clear. You’ll notice on that same page that the proportion of overweight children also increased by the year 2000.

An Otherwise Unprocessed, Nutritious Diet

Traditional Asian food is highly nutritious. Go to a Vietnamese noodle house and the signature dish is pho, a big bowl of homemade beef marrow bone broth, tripe, tendons, brisket, and rice noodles. Go to a real Thai restaurant and get bone broth soup with cubes of pork blood, greens, rice noodles, and a duck egg. Go to a Chinese restaurant and get sauteed (alas, in soybean or corn oil these days) pork kidneys with Chinese broccoli and rice on the side. Go to a Japanese restaurant and get wild caught salmon eggs rolled with seaweed and rice, mackerel sashimi, and some fermented miso soup with kelp strips. Go to Korean barbecue and eat a dozen different kinds of kimchi, grilled short ribs, beef tongue, and liver all wrapped in lettuce, with rice on the side. In all these foods, rice is present, but so are the benefits of real bone broth (with its collagen content), fresh meat, fermented cabbage, offal, and vegetables. The presence of rice does not invalidate or negate the presence of every other nutrient.

Of course, that’s restaurant food. If you want to get an idea of how Asian folks cook at home, go to their supermarkets and note what people are buying. It’s not as fancy or flavorful, but it’s just as nutritious. Stand by the register and you’ll see twenty kinds of whole fish; live oysters, mussels, clams, crabs, snails, and sea urchins; a pig’s entire digestive tract; buckets of chicken feet; bags full of strange leafy green things and exotic vegetables like bitter melon; all sorts of herbs, roots, and teas; fermented, pickled foods; a dozen different kinds of root vegetable; and yes, rice. If you want to isolate the rice from that list of nutrient-dense offerings and say “What about that?” be my guest, but not me. I’ll be admiring the handsome beef foot oozing healthy collagen and marrow and imagining all the wonderful dishes it could make (while I mentally compare the contents of shopping carts in Asian markets to the contents of shopping carts in standard American grocery stores… guess who wins).

Before recently, Asians ate less refined sugar and used animal fats for cooking. Sugar intake is rising now, of course, and cooking oils made from corn and soybean have largely replaced lard and tallow, but rice in the context of a low-sugar, no-HFCS (remember, the oft-cited 55/45 fructose/glucose breakdown for HFCS is highly misleading and actually quite often incorrect), low-vegetable oil, nose-to-tail nutrient-dense diet is (or was) acceptable. You can’t reduce a food down to its constituent parts and focus on, say, the bit of fructose in a blueberry and then condemn the entire berry because of it. Similarly, you can’t reduce a diet down to a single constituent food and condemn – or praise – it based on that single food. You have to look at the entire picture, and the Asian diet is largely a nutritious one.

More Rice, Less Wheat

Thanks to regular monsoons, 90% of the world’s rice production is located in Asia. It’s been cultivated in the region for close to 10,000 years, so the region’s occupants tend to eat a fair amount of the stuff.

Luckily for them, rice, especially white rice (the favored type across most of Asia; as a Thai friend of mine who grew up there and came to Hollywood in the 60s told me, “rice bran was for the chickens”), is a mostly non-toxic source of glucose. On the grain spectrum, where wheat and other gluten grains reside at one end, rice relaxes at the opposite end. It’s not “good,” but it’s also not “bad.” It just is. It’s pretty much neutral. Whether you can handle (or need) the glucose load is another thing, but you can rest assured that white rice will be generally free of gut irritants, phytic acid, and deleterious lectins. If you’re eating wheat, on the other hand, you have gluten, wheat germ agglutinin, and a host of other antinutrients with which to contend. And, as Ned Kock’s masterful (and under-appreciated) series of stats posts on the China study data suggests, rice intake is associated with a reduction in cardiovascular disease while wheat flour intake is associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease. The upper level of rice intake did correlate with a slight increase in CHD, however, but not a major one.

All else being equal, people will be healthier on a rice-heavy junk food diet than on a wheat-heavy junk food diet.

Is Asia Even All That Healthier Anymore?

Healthy, long-lived Asia isn’t so healthy and long-lived. Both China and India are facing diabetes epidemics. In Taiwan, KoreaVietnam, and Thailand, diabetes is also increasing. The perfect storm – of sedentary living, processed junk food full of carbs and bad fats, and poor sleep – that has ravaged America and other industrialized nations for almost a century and led to a host of debilitating illnesses is beginning to descend upon Asia. Cooking oils have displaced traditional animal fats and sugar intake is rising. People walk less and eat more wheat.

Even the low BMIs of Asian countries are misleading. At equal BMIs, Asians generally have more body fat than other groups (PDF). So, on average, the American or the Pacific Islander with a BMI of 25 has less body fat than the Chinese guy with a BMI of 25. It’s not clear whether these higher body fat levels (at lower BMIs) correspond to increased risks for certain diseases, but it does suggest that BMI is an unreliable barometer for a country’s leanness on a particular diet. You can be skinny-fat with a low BMI – and it appears that significant numbers of Asians with low BMIs fit that profile.

So, like every other one before it, the Asian Paradox topples: there is actually no paradox. Asian countries remain lean (if they’re actually lean, that is) on a rice-heavy diet by virtue of lots of low-level aerobic activity to promote insulin sensitivity, lots of nutrient-dense food to go with that rice, and because rice is the least offensive grain.

Any questions? Fire away!

CF

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454 thoughts on “The “Asian Paradox”: How Can Asians Eat So Much Rice and Not Gain Weight?”

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  1. If the Asian population has had rice from Ancient times in their diet, isn’t it probable that they have adapted in some way to it?

    1. Yes. 10,000 years is a long time, and I would suspect that Asians whose ancestors lived on rice-heavy diets for a long time have more robust glucose control than other groups.

      1. I doubt Asians from the paleolithic era ate rice in the form we now eat it only because you’d have to boil it in a container to make it edible. Boiling something down in a container sounds more like a neolithic/agricultural thing to do when societies had more permanent homesteads to boil and process rice, legumes, etc.

        I could be wrong, but my anthro degree makes me think that even though there was wild rice, just harvesting and cooking rice smacks more of agriculture than hunter-gatherer.

        1. You can, in fact, cook something down in a container without being part of a Neolithic/agricultural-style culture. Some Native American tribes, for example, used to cook food in bags made of the paunch (stomach) of large animals, like bisson, by heating rocks very hot in a fire and dropping them into the skin full of food to be cooked (such as a stew.)

          I suppose it’s possible that rice could be heated that way, but it’d take an awful long time and a lot of hot rocks, I’d imagine, so your argument is probably correct, in that settled agricultural peoples probably had more time/opportunity to cook grains. I just wanted to point out that boiling food can happen in a hunter-gatherer culture where one uses every part of an animal 😉

        2. wild rice is a actually a grain from grass – it is not rice at all.

        3. A book I just read, “Why The West Rules (For Now)” by an archaeologist, says that pottery was invented thousands of years earlier in the East, probably because they were boiling rice. It’s a good book for getting an idea of what people were eating and when. Also, I live in France and while the French may have lower levels of heart disease, they have a LOT of liver problems! I’m pretty convinced that the “French Paradox” is due to the duck fat. Until just recently, when Western style “low fat” eating starting spreading, the French ate almost everything fried in duck fat or drenched in it. Also, the dairy is from those “type A” cows that some people are talking about.

        4. yes we ate rice for a very long time. but during the times that we were “hunter gatherers” most of our ancestors ate root crops like cassava and sweet potato. you can still see it in indigenous peoples.today but rice was part of the diet even then.

        5. Boiling grains is a modern food prep – just as is grinding dry grain into flour. Grains do not have to be prepared either way. Soaking grains is a traditional practice in many cultures.

          Soaked to the point of germination, the phytase breaks down the phytate, thus releasing the nutrients bound inside the seed coat. Soaked grains are easier to grind for baking. Slow cooking of soaked grains only requires a low temp and could even utilize the heat from the sun.

          There is physical evidence that the Australian Aborigine made bread (aka bush bread, seed cake, damper) using indigenous plant seeds as far back as 50,000 years ago using hot ashes for baking – but the bread could also be eaten raw. This bread was high carb and high protein.

          Do a Google search if you want to know more- if I include a link this comment will be awaiting moderation for who knows how long.

          You might also want to read “Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food”, (2009), Catherine Shanahan, MD & Luke Shanahan, ISBN 978-0-615-22838-9

        6. So if I wanted to add rice into a pre-race meal what woud be the best option – wild, white, brown?

        7. Besides, white rice, as they eat now, has to pass by a polishing process.

          In other hand, you can´t earn weight by eating white rice just because it doesn´t have fat, protein or salt (I know salt is not caloric, but it can make you storage water in your body). Rice only gives you energy, and if you spent it, then you don´t get fat. I have been eating rice as my only cereal for months, and I haven´t gained weigth since I stoped exercising.

        8. There’s a traditional method of cooking rice in Thailand that involves packing wet rice into bamboo tubes and then putting the bamboo on hot coals, thus steaming the rice. No cookware involved.

          Regardless, 10,000 years is about the same amount of time that wheat has been cultivated in the West and the claim is that we have not adapted. 10,000 years is a very short time from an evolutionary perspective, especially for a slow-growing, low-reproductive-rate species like humans. More likely its along the lines of what Mark suggested: rice just has far less toxins than wheat, so there’s not as much to adapt to in the first place. Compare it to high-altitude Peruvians, who are known (traditionally) for longevity and who eat a fair amount of potatoes.

        9. because hunter gather’s sure enjoyed their bacon and how about a cup of joe!
          the praise of paleo eating is that it goes back to our ancestral way of eating but i’m now questioning this hard and you know what? i doubt very highly we caught a lot of big fatty meat. raw fruits and veg were our mian source of food. Asian’s use animal products for mere flavor while their plate is filled with carbs. rice and veggies everywhere. And they’re slim. And they live longer and have less illness compared to other meat loving countries.
          It’s passed off as a ‘paradox’ because it challenges the primal/paleo way of eating.
          Well i think they got it right

          1. They still have enough meat and fish everyday and nothing wrong with that !

        10. Why do people bizarrely assume that no adjustments to diet in our physiology have been made since Paleolithic times? The thousands of years since then do matter.

        11. The oldest people in the Philippines cooked rice long long time ago by wrapping them in banana leaves and burying them shallow in the ground. After putting back the dirt over it, they will build fires on top and roast their fish or meat from hunted animals. After a while when they thought it was already cooked, they will dig the rice out and eat it with their fish or meat! So yes, they were able to cook rice without pots or containers.

          1. Dave, Asians “steam” rice? Seriously? My family are from Hong Kong and China. I don’t know any Asians who Steam their rice.

          2. Some DO steam rice , have seen it myself and I have steamed it. Ken Hom has shown this and I prefer the method.

        12. Just to put my grain of rice… erh I mean salt, the East (China, Japan, Korea, India, etc.) did have for a LONG LONG time used a technique called “Crushing” which is actually really reduce the boiling required time of rice.

          Crushing has been part of the food process for thousands of years. Early, it was crushed by hands, then when the water force was more or less discovered as a kinematic force, automatic rice crusher building were built at strategic area and, most of the time, as part of a local house.

          While whole rice takes a while to boils, crushed rice take a fraction of it due to the smaller size of the rice pieces which help at rising the inner temperature as well as the ability to absorb of the rice.

          Even “hunters tribes” were usually using those methods. How were they growing rice if they were moving all around? Simple : They were planting rice at 1 field and were coming back within the next 3 years. Sure it wasn’t always working and the chance of the rice to be taken by another tribe was there, but back then a tribe would only take what they can transport and whenever they uses the rice, they were putting some in the ground. (So the hunter were transporting the rice all across the areas where they were hunting) Another good side of rice for hunter was that it allows them to controls the Deers and some other animal’s resting area. Remember that rice needs a water source nearby. For deers and many other animals, that’s a paradise. So, for hunter, Rice was both something they could eat during winter (as they usually use fire to warm themselves up anyway) and trap for the deers and animals during the summer.

          The way they were using the rice is by taking it as it is (no crushing) first and only crushing only a couple of days max before they cook it. That way, the rice lasted a long time. When the stationary rice crusher house were starting to be build, they no longer crushed their rice and instead bartered their rice to be crushed with dried or raw meat or fur with the local owner of the rice crusher mill. As some point, those rice crusher mill became rice field of their own and then roles between farmers and hunters got a lot more clearer.

      2. or maybe not since the article said they’re experiencing an epidemic of diabetes recently.
        maybe the fact that they walked everywhere helped their bodies to use that glucose and they no longer can deal with it due to a more sedentary lifestyle.

      3. I thought that a central tenet of Mark’s thesis was that 10,000 years was not a significant amount of time compared to the evolution of human beings and that is why humans haven’t adapted to eating grains and legumes yet.

      4. You’d think, but south Asians are much more at risk of type 2 diabetes than other groups. Apparently its down to the way their muscles burn fat (at a slower rate) but I can’t find a real explanation. I think this is the real paradox since unlike Europeans say whose sugar consumption has recently rocketed, Asians have been eating rice with all its refined carbs for centuries yet are still at a higher risk.

    2. That’s actually a myth. Heavy white rice consumption is a recent phenomena in Asia. Aside from farmers, historically Asians have eaten a diet that mostly consisted of meats and vegetables.

      1. yeah but… wouldn’t 90% of the population BE farmers? how far back in history are you talking… historically?

        1. Hmmm…historically? I’m guessing farmers 10,000 years ago would still be agricultural/neolithic time period, supporting an early state society. Definitely not paleolithic era — definitely not hunter-gatherer diet.

          The Paleo/Primal lifestyle doesn’t have to be locked into a specific time period (we’ve got ’em still running around today in parts of Africa and Australia). But the traditional peoples who live the paleo/primal life are most likely organized as bands, as opposed to large horticultural-practicing tribes and state societies.

          In other words, the Asian counterpart to Grok and his family weren’t farmers supporting a sedentary/fixed village or city/state. If they were, they wouldn’t be Grok anymore. They’d be living in the more modern, albeit 10K years ago, agricultural lifestyle.

        2. Rice has only been grown in Japan for about 2000 years. The young people of Japan today eat horrible food: potato chips, candy, fast food, sodas, pastries etc..

          It’s the older generation that lives long since they still eat an traditional diet with a lot of fish and seafood and drinks lots of green tea.

        3. This is still a myth, truly. The fact is until the mid-20th cent. many Asians, and many Asian farmers, couldn’t afford to eat their own rice.

          They ate millet and barley. Farmers grew rice to sell to rich people and the aristocracy, but the food of the poor was millet and barley, sometimes mixed with a little rice.

          For example, consider Japan:

          “Peasants living in mountain areas with low rice productivity, along with poor people in general, formerly mixed millet with rice. The sweet potato, introduced in the eighteenth century, also became popular as a staple in the south of Japan, where it supplemented a low yield of rice.”
          http://www.cambridge.org/us/books/kiple/japan.htm

          Note much of Japan is mountainous, and it is famously short of arable land.

          Also:

          “Without a doubt, rice was an important crop during the Yayoi, but barley, millet and other wild and cultivated plants were also consumed in large quantities.”

          http://books.google.com/books?id=KC2T9HchWTEC&pg=PA20&lpg=PA20&dq=millet+consumption+Japan+history&source=bl&ots=EMsWg7EsVn&sig=eKz8lKOX3wHcjPwjdNyYHNAbDkU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2-ApT4axNcKohAeKz63LCg&ved=0CEMQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=millet%20consumption%20Japan%20history&f=false

          It’s important to note the historical importance of millet: Rice GI = 65, Barley GI = 64, Millet GI = 25. Mixing millet into your rice or barley will seriously bring down the GI. 🙂

          1. The rice is the main staple of the Japanese eaven the government said it so how is it a myth I still don’t get it. And how do you know what Millit means so can you use inglish please

          2. I agree with MorePork, poorer people of Asia did not eat White Rice as a main staple. I remember people who migrated from villages in China and they talked enviously about how some of the well off families ate white rice, while most ate Millet.

        4. Not that far. In the history of Asia, 90% of the people were definitely NOT farmers. Until maybe the last 500-1000 years most Asian cultures were very nomadic (Mongolia) or coastal (China and Japan). The nomadic cultures mostly hunted there own food and the coastal cultures mostly fished. Even after agriculture took over, rice was grown mostly for the upper classes and the farmers mostly lived on millet and barely as someone else here mentioned. People of the upper class still ate a diet of mostly meat and vegetables, with some rice, and the farmers mostly starved, so they really can’t be used as an indicator of the health of anything. It wasn’t until maybe the last 200 years that white rice has become a staple of the Asian diet.

          This whole “10,000 years of agriculture” that people throw around is a load of BS. As little as 2,000 years ago most cultures were still nomadic or semi-nomadic, and even agricultural societies still largely hunted for food. The few who didn’t got really fat and unhealthy and died early. Look at the Egyptians, they died en mass from heart disease at 40. Also, take the Mesopotamian cultures. A lot of their sculptures are of really, REALLY fat people.

      2. I was wondering about this also, since I’ve heard that as well.. The question would be when did they start eating it and how much has their consumption increased since?

        1. They made sculptures of fat people, because in a time period when much of the population starved, fat people were a sign of wealth, power, and prestige. Therefore, weight was a sought after commodity, much as thin is today.

      3. What? Meat was for rich people. Weren’t most Asians historically poor? My mom said she was only able to eat meat once a month if she’s lucky. Other than that, she would eat rice.

        1. I agree. My 93 year old grandma lived through both the republic and communist China and from what she has told me, meat was for the rich. Once a month is a luxury and some poorer families had to live off only rice and some boiled weeds for months before they could get maybe a thumb sized amount of meat. My grandma to this day eats a carb heavy diet and I wonder how she is able to live so long without any health problems

          1. Linda, have you read the book called The Starch Solution? The author Dr. McDougall states that humans are meant to eat carbs like rice as our primary diet. This is why your grandma is so healthy … she is eating THE proper diet while the rest of the RICH WORLD is clueless … Undoubtedly encouraged by the ever powerful meat and dairy industry.

          2. Linda, your grandma lived during a time of Turmoil, and War. China’s large population coupled with the disastrous economic / agricultural policies of the Chinese gov’t caused the famines in China.

        2. If you’re referring to the Japanese, meat wasn’t even part of their diet until after ending their policy of isolation with the coming of America’s Admiral Perry. Besides not having cattle in Japan before then, they’d had a lot influence from Buddhism. So for the most part, fish and vegetables with rice. This is what a lot of my more knowledgeable Japanese students have told me, anyway.

          1. Western and Eastern diet are completely different. It’s like comparing apples to bananas. . My family (Korean/Chinese) also drink green tea before every meal, so as you can see cultural differences makes a big difference too.

        3. Its true meat is only for the rich. But don’t forget, being poor, they had to work a lot harder (and I’m referring to physical work)

        4. Huh.
          I wonder how this works with the English Caucasian culture, who used to eat meat and bread because most vegetables were intended for the nobility.

      4. Rice is the main bowl, veges and meats are side dishes, im asian, i never known any asian families to have lots of meats, as most families wont be able to afford that, veges yes, but not meat….a small skinny free range chicken would feed a family of 6 for 2 days, only made into stews

        1. I’m Asian too, and I want to say that we definitely eat a lot of rice, but to say that rice is the main dish isn’t true. Dinner usually consists of 1 fish or meat dish, 1 or 2 vegable dishes (usually with mince) and some broth soup. My mom always taught me that we should finish the main dishes and then fill up with rice. So rice is just a (mandatory) )side dish.

      5. A 300g piece of meat generally would feed a family of 6…for 2 meals, and not everyday can an average family afford meat…..its generally for special occasions…

      6. Rice has always been a form of barter currency in china- It was around enough that asians could always keep a bowl of it around. And it’s relatively cheap, even if it’s hard to harvest, since that was many people’s jobs.

        Asians are fairly frugal, so they valued rice because of the time that went into growing and harvesting it. But it was plentiful enough to keep around.

    3. “Surrender Monkeys”? – guys I’m not French but I don’t think I’d find this funny if I were (unless I’m missing the joke) – BTW the French saved our butts when we would have otherwise been “surrendering” to the British in 1776 … this is a great site – let’s keep it positive …

      1. Mark was sarcastically referencing the idiom used all too often during the lead-up to the Iraq war, when the French had the temerity to oppose the United States drive to the Iraq War on the Security Council of the UN. The idiom itself refers to the response of the French government to the Nazi German invasion (surrender).

        1. He’s probably making a classic Simpsons reference.

          “Bojourrrrrr ya cheese eatin’ surrender monkeys”

      2. I’m with Steve on this – it is an unnecessary slur. This site has always had some of the highest blog standards around – if it were like the Simpson’s, I wouldn’t look forward to it every day.

        1. The name Sisson is Frankish in origin, if not downright French…so, I think you can unruffle your umbrage a bit. It’d be much like me referring to myself as a Heinie, Jerry or Kraut.

        2. Hey, “Worker Bee” – thanks for the clarification.

          Speaking of clarification….

          Really, Rand? Seriously?

          “Sisson” is an English name that originates in England from the NORMAN French invasion of 1066. NORMANS who were ‘Northman’/Viking descent not Frankish/Germanic.

          Don’t take my word for it, look it up.

        3. Lighten up, guys! Does no one have a sense of humor? I was wondering if I was the only one who got “The Simpsons” reference but am glad to see it pointed out by others. Mark is referrng to the characterization of the French by some Americans. He clearly doesn’t hold these views himself.

        4. It was an unnecessary slur. There is absolutely no need for choosing such biased wording. Simpsons reference or not… it’s offensive and misrepresentative. I expect better from MDA.

      3. If you want to talk “surrender monkeys” . . . As I understand it the Dutch surrendered to Hitler immediately. The French had a pretty good underground resistance movement by the way.

        How ’bout those US “surrender monkeys” in Corregidor in the Phillipines during WW2?

        Facts. Inconvenient for clichés.

        1. Pretty sure Mark was taking a dig at the politicians who have, for some strange reason, mocked the French endlessly in recent years (remember the attack against Kerry?). I think most people not clouded by grain-rage recognize that arbitrarily hating the French is absurd… anyway, I took it as a tongue in cheek reference. Lighten up, mon amis.

        2. The French had an excellent resistance movement that was immensely valuable to the Allies – especially at Normandy. But as you note, it was underground not the French government. The issue that some people have is with the French government, not with the people of France. Unfortunately, the French people get pulled into it anyway by being the butt of jokes, etc.

        3. The Dutch were completely overwhelmed and surprised by the Blitzkrieg of the Nazis. They are a tiny country, and yet they last nearly a week, having majors cities such as Rotterdam bombed to the ground. Considering the circumstances, I think they did remarkably well.

          The Dutch have also shown themselves to be fierce fighters in other areas of the world throughout history.

          France, on the other hand, was a major world power when the Nazis invaded. They had been preparing for another war with Germany since the end of the first world war, a perfect example of this would be the Maginot Line. And yet, they still surrendered in just a matter of weeks.

          Even worse than that, a good portion of the French population actually submitted to Nazi control and actually had a government in charge that is sympathetic to the Nazis. Pathetic.

          Oh, and the Dutch resistance during the Second World War was known for their courage, bravery, and effectiveness.

          Facts. Get them.

        4. Not only that but quarter of a million French troops died fighting the Germans after the British staged their tactical retreat from Dunkirk in 1940.
          Back on the Chinese rice issue, probably until say the 20th century rice was a cash crop, and peasants ate anything that was not poisonous from insects up.

      4. I have to agree, I find this offensive and pointless. Did you need this in your post to prove a point? I am very disappointed.

      5. I agree. Mark, why on earth would you find it necessary to use a derogatory term here? I usually love your writings, but this is offensive.

        1. Everyone put on your big girl panties and stow your fake outrage. Let’s talk about rice, for cripes sake…

        2. I agree. One word too many this time. I never thought my first comment on that great blog would be to react to an offensive term against my country (I’m French) but I really was disappointed and puzzled.
          And no, “mon amis” is not French, it would be “mon ami” and no one says so in France. Cheers.

      6. I agree. Not only does “surrender monkeys” make the author sound slightly flippant and immature – we as Americans could be described in just as unflattering terms due to the war mongering we have been doing over the past decade.

    4. Well, actually… I’m a Japanese history grad student living outside of Tokyo, and the Japanese did not have rice from ancient times. Rice cultivation occurred in Japan around 3,000 years ago. Fairly recent, from a biological standpoint. But up until around 1700, almost all of the rice produced in Japan was given to the upper-upper-upper classes as taxes via the upper-upper class. Samurai in the warring states era (1400-1500s) were said to favor brown rice, in very small amounts. Farmers ate barley, millet and a variety of other goodies that really weren’t so at all!

      And knowing that I think that there’s a reason portrayals and paintings of ancient Japanese members of society were so darn fat!

    5. I have lived in South East Asia for over a year now… Philippines … I can confirm many here are NOT thin nor fit. The ones that are eat less rice and much more coconut and lower glycimic foods. What I have noticed is many over 30 .. Have significant body fat … Belly area… Many who are fit and when they do eat rice eat in small portions.. Individuals who also eat lots of sugar and refined carbs tend to eat very large amounts of rice… These people are many time obese… I also believe there is a role of epigenics … Wait one or two generations given the westernization of diets here .. Especially the sugars, hydrogenated veritable oils, and high refined carbs. Previous traditional diets did not have these.

      1. Asians including us Filipinos or Pinoys do eat a lot of rice, as much as 800grams or more a day. That’s about 224g plus of simple, insulin raising carbs! But it’s not all about just the rice. It’s what we eat with rice and how much of these “viands” we eat with rice every meal that could explain how one could be obese and another be thin even when both consume the same amount of rice per day. Physical activity is also a factor but I know of people losing weight in a hospital bed while on heavy dextrose and glucose drips.

        1. Too many in the Philippines do not “like” vegetables and it is very common to see plates filled over half with white rice. Every processed product I have seen in the Philippines contains too much sugar and oil.

      2. Diabetes and heart disease are more common in the Philippines than in the US but I do not think the rate of obesity is as high as in the US yet.

        Many consume too much sugar and white rice while avoiding vegetables in large quantities but the use of large amounts of oil is also common. Difficult to find a processed product in the Philippines that does not contain excessive sugar and oil. A large percentage of the population able to eat in restaurants drink soft drinks with their meals.

        Even in the long-lived Okinawa the young are moving away from traditional foods and becoming more Westernized as their weight and sicknesses reflect the change.

        1. You said some good points Richard but I disagree with the white rice part. White rice simply hasn’t harmed the health of Asians.

          1. Chris, my family are from Hong Kong and China. we do eat white rice, but not in large quantities. Vegetables, fish, and some meat gives us all the nutrients we need. Rice is a supplement to our meals.

    6. Exactly what I was thinking – in fact I read somewhere (maybe Nourishing Traditions) that Asians have bigger pancreases and therefore can get away with eating more rice/carbs.

      1. As an Asian myself, I would say maybe we can eat somewhat more rice, but still too much more will cause major health problems.

    7. I read recently that, after correcting for body size, Asians do in fact have a pancreas that’s 30% larger than a Westerner. It was hypothesized that it was the result of their rice consumption dating back to ancient times. Sorry — I can’t provide a citation.

    8. Humans have only been eating grains for 10,000 years, which is not enough to develop a genetic adaptation or evolution to it.

      1. I realize this is a really old post, but I’m going to reply anyway.

        Why is 10,000 years not enough time to develop a larger pancreas? How long did it take for people migrating from Africa to Asia across the landbridge to develop the extra fat in the eyelids, causing the slanted eye look, or the differences in skin pigmentation?

    9. I’m speaking from India and for a community (Bengali) which was essentially rice eaters but now wheat has become a substantial part of a meal mainly due to the reduction of the price of wheat vis a vis rice over the past 30 years. So people can adopt new food habits within a generation and their bodies adapt fairly well.
      In India at least very little of cooking is done in animal fat and this is true of the past as well. In rural areas and traditional homes we continue to use mustard oil in the north, gingelly and groundnut in the south, in the west groundnut and many other oils for special purposes.
      As for growing fat that is more related to a sedentary life style and disrupted eating habits.
      I don’t think it is rice vs wheat or vegetable oils vs. animal fat. Lifestyle is the key.

    10. I have read that Asians actually have larger pancreas, which is why their bodies can tolerate a larger amount of rice in their diet.

    11. Probably. I am Asian who eats as much sweets, as much everything as my friends who are white, Spanish, and black and fatter. I eat everything I want, anytime I want and I am size between 4 and 6. I drive, I do very little exercise.
      Many things people say why they think(!) Asians are thinner, healthier, don’t sound convincing to me.
      It’s in our genes, that make the difference. So if you want to know why, study that.

    12. How come Europeans having wheat in their diets since Ancient times haven’t adapted to it?

      1. Mark’s take is that rice does not have all the gut irritants that wheat has. “rest assured that white rice will be generally free of gut irritants, phytic acid, and deleterious lectins. If you’re eating wheat, on the other hand, you have gluten, wheat germ agglutinin, and a host of other antinutrients with which to contend. ”

        Personally, I think that it’s because modern wheat is so highly hybridized that it is not the same food it was even 100 years ago. Google Emmer of Einkorn wheat, which are ancient forms of wheat. Their genetic makeup is vastly different than modern wheat.

    13. No it is not.
      This is just mark sisson BS
      Remember he has the paleo diet to sell.
      Some of his articles are absolutley shameful.

      Take this one for example. He has convinced himself that asians walk more then other races thats why evil rice doesnt make them fat
      WTF ?
      Could it be rices super low fat content that keeps asians lean ?

      I guess when u are a loyal follower of his you get so entrenched in the BS that you lose your common sense.

      1. I guess Coca-Cola, with its also super low fat content, should be keeping Americans lean 😉 I think you need to check your own BS meter with the recent-but-very-outdated view on dietary fat.

      2. Hi. Try eating 2 cups of white rice ONLY, each for breakfast, lunch and afternoon meals. thats a total of 6 cups, or about 1224 calories a day and i’m sure you’ll be feeling full. but eating such large amounts of this simple carb in one sitting will definitely spike your insulin! IT IS WHAT to eat with the rice that will make the big difference between being diabetic / fat or the opposite.

        1. I’m asian, from Hong Kong, China. I don’t know anybody who would eat 2 cups of rice a day (after cooking, that is almost a full large pot of rice), let alone 6 cups a day. That is just a Ton of carbs.

    14. The thing is that when adapting to a food source you’d be more likely to survive if you can take more energy from it; the complete opposite of what people strive for today.

    15. yes they eat bowls of it for breakfast lunch and dinner. they eat loads of bread , steamed bread made from wheat. They eat a lot more than the average westerner. sitting down to a buffet of varying dishes /Also they have a higher incidence of Diabetes. The pancreas is over worked processing the high carb diet.

    16. I often go to Bali, on holiday, rice is not a side dish, it is the mains, with a few finely chopped pieces of chicken, or pork, & green veg. They use a lot of soybean tofu and tempeh. The fat Balinese are those eating a western style diet. Indonesians are absolutely obsessed with rice. If we haven’t eaten rice, we simply HAVE NOT EATEN. Yes, we love rice and we cannot live without it. Some of us even eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner EVERY SINGLE DAY.

      Many Indonesians feel that sandwich, burger, noodles, pizza, potatoes and other non-rice entities are snacks. That’s why it is common to see a person eating a plate of rice just 10 short minutes after eating a bowl of noodles.

      “I haven’t had my lunch yet. Chicken Noodles? That wasn’t lunch, that was a snack!” Or, “I am still hungry, the burger and pizza just won’t cut it, I need rice.” And the ever popular, “I get sick if I don’t eat rice three times a day. These are common answers you hear when you ask us why we eat rice after we have just eaten a Big Mac and fries.

      1. …But it is true, very few Balinese, by percentage, do any deliberate exercise.

    17. It’s not a “paradox”. As a fellow Asian, our main source of carbs come from eating rice and nothing else. The reason why we are thinner is because we don’t eat wheat in our diet. it has never been part of our diet while Westerners have wheat and sugar for centuries.

      1. I’m from Hong Kong, I would say quantity of rice and wheat matters a lot. Not many people can eat large quantities of Rice or Wheat regularly without developing metabolic disorders.

    18. Very interesting point there. I suspect they have adapted to it in some way. I’ve eaten long grain (Chinese rice) for a large part of my life and I didn’t get any gain weight from it. I am half Asian by ancestry having ancestors in south east asia and Macau and Hong Kong. Interestingly I have been eating Japanese rice (which is a different type of rice) and it makes me fat. I am beggining to think you are best to eat food what your ancestors mostly ate. It’s in your DNA.

  2. I spent some time teaching English is Seoul and was really struck by how few people I saw actually exercising on the streets. In six months I think that I saw fewer than a dozen joggers, and that’s while I was walking about an hour every day. Even at the outdoor exercise parks most people seemed to just be playing around and definitely were not dressed for exercise.

    At the same time many students were forced to eat from convenience stores for dinner because of their congested schedules. Unfortunately they are usually eating highly processed snacks and candy.

    1. I love the feel of a park like that. Just lazing around, taking time to just enjoy the scenery, the people, the animals. I often feel so connected and calm when I take the time to do this.

    2. Any of you old enough to remember the 40s and 50s might recall that exercise for its own sake, like jogging, was uncommon. Many people walked to work, or rode bicycles, and outdoor play was the rule for children and not a few adults. Then television became ubiquitous, car ownership exploded, and we built our cities as shrines for motor vehicles. I agree with Mark that we all should make time for play, but unstructured play is all but extinct.

      1. Well said. As a “paleo urban planner,” I can attest to the fact that the car, and its culture, have ruined the landscape of our cities and therefore our health.

        I think the tides are slowly changing, though, as younger generations (and empty-nesters) desire more walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods with access to transit.

        The field of city planning is also becoming more integrated with public health, and incorporating agriculture back into our cities is a growing trend. Interesting stuff — I’m exploring these topics in my blog.

    3. I live in Seoul. Try going to one of the mountains where people go to exercise. They’ll be dressed as if they were preparing to summit Everest. And check out the bikers–they’ll be on bikes costing in the thousands and dressed in all the latest biking apparel.

      Many Asians are real gear heads.

  3. I lived in Korea for about two years and noticed that most rice consumption was small in most meals. I even lost some weight eating all of that great food. This article makes sense to me! Great job, Mark!!!!

    1. Heh, heh! I lived in the Philippines with the wealthier families there, and I can tell you, they ate a LOT of rice! I would see my host brothers mounding their plates with it, and I am talking to the circle part just on the inside of the boundary of the plate. That was their first course! So maybe with the poorer, this is true, but the wealthy families ate plenty of rice.

      1. I am from the PI and I see poor people with a heap of rice on their plates too. But poor Filipinos have lesser meat on their plates than rich pinoys do. That is one reason why some get fatter on rice, because thay have lots of meat on their plates. Another reason why poor pinoys are thinner than the well-off ones is because they do manual labor. Poorer people walk than ride, hand-wash than use a machine, play outdoor games than computer games, etc. This is why rice is so “kind” to them. Rice is a fast digesting, easily accessible fuel to the body giving the poor guy an energy boost to do more manual labor. Our climate is also conducive to rice consumption because it’s warm most of the year and we tend to sweat a lot, burning those carbs easily just to keep our body temps cool. Unless of course it’s a rich pinoy who spends most of his day in an airconditioned space.

    2. In the 70’s, I visited a Korean village where I was treated as an honoured guest, on account of the fact that I was a foreigner, because I was given a bowl of (white) rice. Since I was living in Japan at the time, I didn’t think it particularly honoured to be given some rice! But I was assured that the poor ate a mixture of rice and barley. I happen to like barley, and also would have preferred the brown rice I used to eat in London. Can someone please explain when/ why white rice — which involves _more_ work — and used to be regarded as nutritionally worse — took over from brown? Thanks.

      1. Brown rice has oils that go rancid in storage and white can be stored for years.

  4. Having spent a great deal of time in Asia and having eaten quite a few meals with people from Asian countries, I can add they don’t eat a lot. Their typical meals are quite small in comparison with those in the US. And having had some of these friends visit me in the US, they were amazed at the portion sizes in US restaurants. Additionally they don’t eat high calorie sweets, but consume fruits for dessert. So they just don’t have to burn as many calories, because on average they don’t consume that many in a typical day.

    1. According to the data I’ve seen, they consume somewhere around 500 fewer calories per day on average, and their sugar intake is less than 1/5th of ours.

      That’s like a 50 lb. gain per year.

    2. Well, I can tell you from a short month long stay in China, eating with middle class people, I consumed more food at their tables that I ever do in the US. But, as Mark mentions in the piece, it was nutritious. Not much rice for me, but plenty of noodles (made from rice) and vegetables and meat.

      With the constant exercise as a facet of daily life, I dropped eight pounds in 3+ weeks. In fact, I was one of those who wrote to him and asked, “How can this be?”

  5. “because rice is the least offensive grain”. Really?

    I would eat Quinoa over Rice any day… but that’s probably not a smart thing to say on a primal forum.. 😉

    1. Quinoa’s not a true cereal/grain, though; it’s a seed that is used like a grain.

        1. All grains are seeds. Wheat is a seed. Quinoa is a seed. All seeds, including nuts (big seeds) have similar properties.

          We just don’t think nuts to be that problematic because we don’t eat that many. Many of us know what grains can do to us because we ate them daily. For every meal. They made up most of the meal many times.

          Seeds and nuts? We never made them a major part of the meal. They still have antinutrients, phytic acid, hard to digest proteins, etc. They may not be as bad as grains but they are still similar…

          Quinoa is not as good as potatoes, veggies, meats, seafood, eggs, etc. But, its “better” than gluten grains.

        2. Yep. Its listed in Mark’s (and other paleo authors) books as an acceptable carb for SOME people in SOME situations – specifically those people with lifestyles (i.e. athletes) that create a large energy demand.

          Its a complete source of protein – like brown rice and whole oats, but with a higher nutrient value.

          However, Mark also mentions the concerns about saponins causing health issues and quinoa is loaded with saponins. There is a need to process quinoa properly to make it suitable for human consumption otherwise its toxic.

        3. If you’re going by the ‘letter of the law’, probably not. But I go by the spirit of the law and do partake in quinoa and buckwheat now and then. I stay away from cereal grains.

        4. I tend more towards the paleo-ist view of this in that if it needs to be processed to remove toxicity then I’ll generally stay away from it. I have eaten Quinoa on occasion as part of a salad, but I don’t make it a staple of my food intake.

  6. If this browser jumps to the top of the page at random one more time I’m going to throw the computer over the railing to smash on the first floor of the library!

    1. I know how you feel–but I work at a library, struggling with money woes,so if all of you angry at a public computer and not perhaps the server or the operating system mangle ours and the public’s equipment–I may be out of a job and not able to point our patrons to the books like Mark’s that will lead them to good health!! Everything is connected, donch’a know. (I know you are just venting.)
      Have a good one, eat more bacon.

      1. Yes and then I would get banned and wouldn’t be able to read MDA anymore. Primal for civil living!

        1. I’ll try to get a bicycle (keep going through the cheap ones I find in alleys and whatnot like they’re one-way bus passes) and laptop out of my welfare start-up fund somehow (transportation needs (bus pass? DTS!), + research and electronic journalling for my supposed mental instabilities to better allow me to travel to and communicate my dysfunctions to the counsellor I’m legally obliged to speak to?.. maybe if I retake a high school credit at the adult learning center as well that could give credence to a computer requirement and help thicken myelination). Primarilly I want to download music for some sonic therapy and because I feel much more inspired to work out when enjoyable songs play.

    2. I’ll bet you are on a laptop with a touch pad for the cursor. They are notorious for people like me, with a high body capacitance. This means that the pad senses my hand’s presence, and tells the cursor to double-click on whatever screen thing it is pointing at. The solution: an outboard k’board and mouse. Kind of kills the portability….

  7. It is probable that they may have adapted in some way to it (on a bacterial level), but it is highly unlikely to be very significant in only 10000 years. plus for it to spread throughout the entire population being better able to handle rice would have to have become a desirable quality for reproduction and that’s just not sexy.

    1. No, it wouldn’t have to be sexually selected if it was naturally selected. If it increased the fecundity of women or the survival rate of children, for instance. 10,000 years is plenty of time for minor but significant differences to crop up even under relatively mild selective pressure. But think more in terms of evolved damage-control mechanisms, maybe not so much wholesale metabolic adaptation.

      1. I thought china got rice from the italians and the italians got noodles from the chinese via marco polo. My memory might be wonky but that is what I recall.

    2. I was thinking that some of us favor different gut bacteria. Not evolutionary on human terms, but micro-organisms have characteristic drift.

      I’m on a healthier variation of the SAD where I avoid any food that has something weird-sounding on the label. I had to take antibiotics that severely imbalanced my processes. Kefir and honey didn’t do anything, but a whole pound of mixed beans later and I was starting to get the right texture again.

  8. I’ve been eating a lot of rice lately and getting leaner.

    Assuming you don’t tart it up, it is very difficult to over eat rice. Give it a try, cook up a huge mound of rice and try to eat 1,000 calories worth …eventually you have to force yourself to keep eating.

    The problem comes when you tart it up to make it more palatable.

    1. If you are generally healthy that is true. As a guy who was 400lbs and vegetarian I can tell you it isn’t hard to over eat rice. I averaged 6 cups of rice (plain) a day, a can of beans and lots of healthy smoothies. Not good.

    2. White rice does not sit in my stomach well unless I eat a tiny bit of it. So, for me personally, it is difficult to over eat rice. I do it sometimes but I can feel it right away and then go weeks without doing it again.

      1. It varies from person to person. Personally, I can eat quite a lot of white white (and starches generally). I’m probably one of those people with a fairly high level of adaptation to processed grains. Of course, one of those “adaptations” is an oversized belly…

    3. It was quite easy for me to overeat white rice when I was gluten-free before going strict paleo. It was strangely addicting… the pot would call to me and bring me back for seconds, thirds…

      After I ditched the rice, my moderate forehead acne totally cleared up. Must be an inflammation thing for me.

  9. I spent half a year living with a Japanese family in Tokyo and at first felt like the whole country was a giant fat camp, so I just expected to magically lose weight from so much walking and veggies. Surprise, surprise but I gained weight at first from two much convenience store (combini) junk food and bakery treats. Other things I noticed:

    1. Portions (restaurant and at home) are VERY small compared to American versions.

    2. A small bowl of rice was consumed at every meal, but so was miso soup, fish or meat and vegetables. We usually had green tea and rice crackers for dessert, which was nice!

    3. People in Tokyo are VERY skinny, especially compared to Americans. However, many people have very little muscle tone, especially girls. There is also a LOT of pressure to lose weight, even if you are already a healthy weight.

    4. People are skinny, but there are a lot of indicators of suboptimal health on display (from a WPF perspective): very poor dentition, many large facial moles, poorly formed narrow facial bone structure and short stature. Maybe some of these are due to fewer people using orthodontia and younger generations are getting taller, but low BMI is not everything for health!

    1. Ha! I lived with a Japanese family for a year too and have never been so fat in my life! I tried really hard to find some type of gym, but they simply didn’t exist any where around me (Tsudanuma suburb, around 2001). It didn’t seem like many of my classmates were into sports.

      I did a lot of walking to/from the train, but stations are plentiful so that would add up to at most 2 miles a day. I really had a hard time figuring out the source of the weight gain — I ate mostly fish, rice and beef-strip dishes like shabu shabu. I definitely ate way more sodium and soy sauce than usual, but my portions were fairly small.

      I lost 10 pounds within 1 month of coming back home to Chicago. Go figure.

      1. I gained at first in Japan, but then stopped after I realized that just because all the Japanese people around me were skinny did not mean that all the food in the country was healthy. One day I checked the label on a kind of twinkie thing that I’d been eating after lunch every day and saw that it was 500 calories!

        Weight gain just seems to happen when you live abroad. My fattest year ever was a year spent in Germany, where I walked constantly, got lots of sleep and ate delicious, local, fresh food all the time. I think it was the damn bread and chocolate! Either way, I lost it all immediately after I got home, partly because the food in the U.S. was kind of tasteless in comparison.

        1. Yes, agreed! I myself lived in France for a year, ate nothing but fresh market produce, baguettes, cheese, and wine, and gained 20 pounds! Within two months of my return stateside, I’d lost all the weight…

    2. Your experience is almost identical to mind. Because I craved American-style food I would also frequent the bakery. The only thing that saved me was the constant walking.

    3. Hi Sarah–

      interesting comment.

      Can you describe or link to any sources describing facial moles as a sign of sub optimal health? I would love to get more information. I see that you mentioned this was from a WAPF perspective, but I was not aware that WAPF mentioned anything about moles. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks!

      1. This was more an observation of something I noticed there that seemed unhealthy than something I’ve read about. I don’t know if having prominent facial moles is a sign of ill health, but given the association with skin cancer, it doesn’t seem terribly healthy either. It might just be that Japanese people are less likely to have them removed than Americans (same thing with getting braces), but it was something I observed more frequently there than in the U.S. or other countries.

    4. In response to your comment on poor dentition…that is actually a cultural definition of cuteness. In Japan, crooked teeth are viewed as cute, especially in girls. They actually have cosmetic surgery for people to get crooked teeth, and anime characters have them as a quirk (seen as a single fang).

  10. Mark totally nailed this. I am Chinese American born and raised in San Francisco. I have also spent the last 10 years in China building a business in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong and I can tell you that they are catching up to us in obesity. QUICKLY. All of the processed snacks, sugary drinks, and fast food crap is there in force and it’s a sign of “prosperity” to live on that stuff. The rice is now eaten with processed foods, unhealthy fats, and refined sugars. So the “paradox” will fall in line and be consistent soon enough. It’s not the rice so much, it’s the stuff on top of the rice. On the US front, Chinese food here is generally so bad nutrition wise (in a restaurant). Bad oils, lots of sugar to suit local tastes, MSG for added flavors, and HFCS based sauces (like oyster sauce, soy sauce, etc…). I generally only order steamed dishes or specifically ask for them to use lard, no MSG, no sugar, no sauces other than salt and pepper or fermented bean curd for flavoring. As Mark said, there is no paradox but the lifestlye of days past required more movement. As China is now the number one car sales demographic in the world and cars, video games, mobile smart phones, and servants become status symbols, the rise of obese children and parents are clearly evident as you walk the streets of the major metropolitan cities of China.

    Of course, China is thriving economically and this obese trend is now the target of “obesity camps” for children:
    http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/usa/life/2011-09/21/content_13754643.htm

    1. And, as the author of the article at the link you shared stated:

      “Modernization, globalization and urbanization are changing the environment we live in to become more ‘obesogenic’, leading to people either eating more or becoming less active,” Cui says.

      While many of the culprits fit the same lineup as other countries’, several are China specific, he says.

      One is a history of starvation and malnutrition, Cui explains.

      “With these experiences, Chinese people have come to hold the belief that obesity is a sign of prosperity, happiness and health,” Cui says.

      Another is the fawning that comes with the country’s family planning policy.

      “The child’s parents and grandparents pamper their only child by overfeeding the ‘little emperor’,” Cui says.

      “Furthermore, food that used to be distributed among his siblings is now devoured by just one person.”

  11. Another reason to consider is purely economic: rice is a Giffen Good. Basically, as people become less poor their demand for rice drops because they can eat more nutrient rich and higher calorie foods. If they can afford a steak now, instead of rice, they will. Unfortunately, they can’t as easily as we can — so they eat rice. This would also indicate that they eat lower caloric diets than other cultures, leading to less obesity.

    Simply put,

    less money –> less food –> less obesity

    whereas in America

    less money –> processed food –> more obesity

    1. Why – when according to the list at the link you shared they are all outranked in life expectancy by Japan (#1) and Hong Kong (#2)?

    2. We all have to remember too that life expectancy doesn’t equate “health.” America has lots of ways to prolong life but that life is riddled with disease.

  12. I moved to Singapore about a year ago, and I can’t help but notice how popular flour based foods are here. Baked pastries, noodles, bean paste cakes, noodles, fried chicken, crackers, noodles. The rice based diet has been largely supplemented by noodly goods, and it shows in the skinny-fat waste lines. But sometimes I go to a friend’s family’s house and we get one of those meals filled with strange animal parts, dark greens, and a brothy or herbal soup, with rice barely a mention. It’s too bad the official government recommendations here aren’t to eat the traditional Chinese fare, but to follow the modern food pyramid.

  13. Besides rice, you have touched upon that strange phenomenon of “exercise culture”, that I’ve only encountered when I arrived in the U.S. I come from a culture where, similarly to Asian countries, you move to get from place A to place B, or to play, or to do sports (for fun, not for “exercise”). But living in America now, whenever I go to the local park, I’m surprised that apparently we have a whole town full of professional cyclists and runners! At least that’s how it looks from their super-expensive gear and single-minded focus on miles covered or calories burned. Where’s the fun? And please, $40 for a shirt to run in?? Seriously?

    Of course, I’m the weird person who walks the two miles to the town center on weekends, so what do I know 😀

  14. how is this a ‘paradox’? It’s cause they consume less energy (calories) then they burn.

  15. Nice!

    I’ve always attributed it to the massive amount of organ meats, so I’m to see it here also.

    MIke

  16. 15 years in Japan gave me an appreciation for the food culture the Japanese can return to at the end of the day even though they may have eaten breakfast at 7-11 and lunch at McDonalds. Sadly, more and more Japanese are buying prepared meals at the supermarket. Still, Japanese know what real home cooked food tastes like. Like the French, they still appreciate food quality. They do eat a lot of rice and DO get flabby but genetics seems to keep them from getting HUGE.

  17. My bf and I lived in Japan for almost 3 years, and they eat so much rice! But as another commenter pointed out, the portion sizes overall are MUCH smaller than America. The first month we were there, we both felt like we were starving and my bf lost 8lbs.

    Walking and biking are also very common for transportation, as having a car is incredibly expensive, so gentle cardio was just a part of life.

    Since moving back to America and adopting Primal principles, we have weirdly discovered that eating rice spikes my bf’s weight more than wheat! No joke, he can have the occasional gourmet pizza (he won’t let pizza go, that’s his 80/20) and his weight remains stable. But if we have sushi it jumps up significantly. I guess he’s his own paradox!

  18. “Saturated fat gets off pretty much scot-free and omega-6 vegetable oils get raked over the coals (and, presumably, oxidized).” – I tried to explain to my co-worker how funny this line was, but got nothin’. It takes a special person to appreciate nutritional humor.

    1. I know, it’s funny, right? We have to come to MDA to get this kind of humor!

  19. I’ve traveled to Asia and noticed that they don’t eat large portions of rice. Just a small bowl with their meals. They don’t get fat off of it b/c their portions are much more controlled and reasonable. Their portions of everything else they eat besides rice is also controlled, which, among other things, further contributes to their slim figures.

  20. Err uh that still doesn’t mean they eat “a lot” of rice. What is the standard of “normal amounts” of rice?

  21. I’m a Chinese American and my grandparents emigrated here from China, and in our culture the grandmother is the Matriarch of the family, cooking, assisting with child rearing. My grandparents were very poor while in China and their peasant-like diet was passed onto us.

    This would be a typical day’s meals for us:

    Breakfast- Small bowl white rice, a soft boiled or easy over egg, side of salty asian vegetable.

    Lunch- Bowl of “Juk”- in another dialect “Congee” (a watery Rice Soup- homemade broth with rice, boiled virginia peanuts and some kind of proten dropped into it by the spoonful- ground pork, fish cake…) This was topped by a choice of condiments of your choice such as chopped bolied pork liver, chopped fermented cabbage root, chopped chinese parsley, chopped green onion, thin beef tripe.

    Dinner- Always started with soup made by boiling the dinner meat of choice (a whole chicken, a piece of pork shoulder…some times grammy would boil kidney, beef hearts or beef brains) for several hours in a large pot of water and the root of the chinese parsely and pieces of ginger root. The ginger root would be removed, the meat would be removed and various items would then be added to the broth.

    For example- broth, salt with: Chopped Watercress for Watercress Soup; Cubed Squash and pieces of chicken; Goji Berries, Barley, Asian Nuts (not sure what their american equivalent is but they were referred to as “Almonds” but were not almonds); Peas and Beaten Eggs stirred in while the pot was at a rolling boil for Egg Flower Soup.

    The Boiled Meat that was removed from the basic broth would be chopped and sauteed or topped with a sauce for the main entree. For example, the pork would be chopped and stir fried with a Chinese Shrimp Paste; or very thinly chopped and steamed with pickled bamboo shoots or preserved chili peppered cabbage. The whole chicken cut into portions and topped with a Ginger/Green Onion/Garlic/Salt mixture for Cold Ginger Chicken, or topped with an Oyster Sauce Gravy.

    On the side would be a steamed vegetable such as Ung Choi (Spinach like vegetable), Choy Sum, Bitter Cabbage, Chopped & Sauteed Bitter Melon or other.

    Served with a small bowl or rice. The Rice was the main and largest part of the meal. You’d put some rice from your bowl into your bowl of soup, then take some of the meat dish, some of the veggies, place them atop your rice and eat.

    Other dinner items included freshly caught fish that was topped with chopped Chinese Parsley, Brined Preserved Cabbages, Preserved Turnips, Ginger, Green Onion & steamed in broth. Or sauteed til crispt on the outside and served with a homemade sweet sour sauce that had many kinds of asian pickles (pickled baby onions, pickled radish, etc..)

    Or Eggs….Egg Fu Young; Salted Duck Eggs; Preserved Duck Eggs.

    Again, the soup and the rice were the filler foods and the other foods were eaten family style and in small portions compared to american style portions.

    Desserts/Treats: Preserved plums, dried fruit, an unsweetened herbal jello like dish topped with maple syrup, sweetened black bean paste cakes.

    Not many processed foods or wheat here, I believe asians who eat a lot of rice are slender because of the lack of Gluten in the diet. Just looking at the surface, it seems Gluten consumption can lead to quicker fat storage, resistance to fat loss or other problems that lead to obesity and illness? The Gluten Theorists seem right on the money.

    If you look at a traditional chinese diet at least, there arent too many flour/sugar/butter based desserts.

    Finally, soups are a very big part of the asian diet. For us we may have soup three meals a day seven days a week, and soup is always eating with a spoonful or white rice mixed inside. Also, asian homestlye style rice is cooked with much more water than American style rice dishes are, and we don’t add things like butter it; hence the calories are much lower.

    1. Regarding the “traditional Chinese diet”, there are big variations between northern and southern cuisines. I’m not an expert in Chinese cuisine, but my parents ate plenty of noodles, buns, and other wheat products growing up in Beijing.

      1. Yes, and also I can imagine how much different the diet in China is today as compared to when my grandparents lived there in the earlier half of the 1900’s, and also among the richer and the poorer in those days.

    2. Does your grandma need a trusty and observant sidekick? I was born into the wrong food culture.

    3. Thanks for that detailed description. Sounds very healthy–lots of fat, moderate amounts of safe starch, and some animal protein, much of it offal and eggs.

      I love Asian food. Too bad it’s hard to eat out in a healthy place these days.

      1. Yes lots of organ meats, brined, preserved things and such. 🙂

        1. I’m curious to know your (and your grandmother’s) opinion of Irene Kuo’s “The Key to Chinese Cooking.” She has a number of soup pot (fire pot) descriptions that are beyond delicious. A few years back I did the Chrysanthemum Pot for New Years Eve. It was a huge hit! Mainly because all that meat and the vegetables made a phenomenal broth. When we finished the meat and vegetables, we all had cups of broth and toasted each other into the New Year. A fine time was had by all.

    4. First of all, I need to copy and paste that into a recipe document, lol! Secondly, it looks like fermented foods were a HUGE part of things as well. Interesting. Full blown probiotics which aid in breaking it all down. Your gut flora must be in top shape, and that is a big deal! I think that may have a lot to do with this too.

  22. i’m from india and indians eat a lot more sugar than south east asians or chinese. they also use a lot more vegetable oil.

    the result is endemic obesity and among the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the world. 30% of indians are vegetarian and that does not help.

    i’m from kerala where traditionally wheat was a foreign food and coconuts and coconut oil were the main source of fat. plus plenty of meat and seafood.

    now, my relatives eat a lot of wheat and use vegetable oil instead of coconut oil. the results are disastrous. now kerala has the second-highest obesity rate in india – after punjab where what is the staple.

    1. I live in kerala, and people here eat A LOT of rice. Easily 3 cups for lunch. Breakfast is rice-based pancakes usually, and dinner either rice or rice/wheat items.

      Many people except laborers have huge bellies. Diabetes and high cholesterol seem widespread.

      My husband eats a ton of rice, however, he has trouble putting on weight. I have always wondered about this.

      1. My husband eats a ton of rice, however, he has trouble putting on weight. I have always wondered about this.

        Hmm, what does he eat with rice and how much of it?

    2. I am from TamiNadu. My observations in are this –
      People who got rich is last decade : The 35+ aged are mostly pot bellied, short (about 5’6″) and have some condition such as diabetes. Without the belly they’d definitely look malnourished. The kids are the same but healthy and in some cases obese. Their recipes are inherited from their ancestors who ate very less meat due to relatively dense population and no intensive animal farming. Result is, they never cook meat and the only nonveg they eat(barely) is the junk when going out. They also boast that they stopped eating meat(compare with a smoke addict taking pride in quitting). This pride and dogma, I never understand. Local bakeries and cake shops are always super busy. Nobody misses their evening ‘snack’ and tea/coffee.
      Middle class : same as the above but less going out and junk but still don’t miss tea time.
      Lower class: The only food they can buy is rice. Veggies are novelty. I know because my mom bought and insisted on feeding milk,eggs to a child(3-4yrs I guess) of a person who used to work for us. Its not a money issue in this case, but the Mother of the child couldn’t justify spending it on the kid’s food. She’s not educated and has no clue what nutrition means.

      Good thing is a lot of people walk and do some yoga but there is a lot of bro-science and gossip about how any kind of resistance exercises are unnecessary,dangerous and can stunt growth in young people.
      Even if you got into lifting weights in a gym, the ‘coaches’ and ‘trainers’ try to peddle you expensive supplements and anabolic steroids, yes roids. This happened when I suggested my brother to strength train and his ‘coach’ wants him to take roids and compete. As a result, the cardio machines are always occupied, may be there are a couple of guys hitting the weights – advice from men’s health magazine, a couple clueless poor chaps listening to a trainer who doesn’t know squat about squat, a guy who does only upper body and biceps and a meathead who does roids.
      There are exceptions but this is the norm.God help us.

      BTW, I love Kerala food, backwaters and the girls.

    3. Interesting cause I noticed my employer, a punjab native would usually have lentil or another legume stew with his flat bread for lunch. I spoke to him about low carb /paleo diet and he realizes that his diet made him diabetic. He also mentionned that vegetable oil replaced Ghee or Coconut milk.Now he,s eating low carb and real fat.

  23. Even on a brief visit to Japan a few years ago, it was evident how much more moving around people do there. The Tokyo subways system alone could be all anyone would need for a complete Primal workout–lots of wandering to find the right platform or make transfers, carrying a big bag of rice (or suitcase…), and making that wild sprint to the last train before midnight closing! The visit was well before my Primal days, and I remember being so embarrassed that tiny grandmas were climbing all those stairs without a trace of effort while I was huffing away in a red-faced sweat shower. Now I’d like to go back and take ’em on!

  24. As a Korean who’s also familiar with lots of other Asian foods, I can say that this article is pretty spot on. I think its particularly important to note that restaurant style Asian food is NOT the same as home cooked food. For example, noodles are consumed less frequently at home due to Asians’ preference for fresh rather than dried noodles, note to mention the convenience of storing and making rice. Also, home cooked foods are generally not as heavily seasoned in salty, sugary sauces like they are more commonly done in restaurants, and feature more vegetables and grains. Of course, a lot of these patterns have changed as processed noodles like ramen and bottled sauces have become widely available. However, I still think its a huge mistake to think that you can consume some of those “oh so tasty” restaurant foods like General Tso’s chicken or pad see ew every day and remain healthy, hence the “asian paradox”.

    1. True. Asian restaurant foods are more fried, salted, sugared much more than “homestyle” “real” asian foods. If you go to a chinese restaurant, watch the workers on their lunch breaks, they’re almost always eating some kind of soup or Juk, maybe some steamed vegetable on the side, but most always it’s a big steaming bowl of soup. When I look back to my overall childhood diet, we mostly ate homemade soups with small portions of white rice, which are much lower in calories, cholesterol and funny chemical ingredients than other kinds of foods. Mmmm I’m getting hungry for Squash Soup, I think I’m going to make that tonight…with some white rice. 🙂

  25. Just wanted to add….sweets, fruit, sugars we rarely ate. On a typical day we had nothing sugary, and dessert was not a part of the daily routine like it is here in the USA. Sweets were served on special occasions, such as during Chinese New Year when my grandmother would make a steamed Rice Flour and Chinese Brown Sugar Mochi cake. Even at parties and gatherings, dessert was rare. So even as a child and into adulhood, you have not acquired that craving for things like Ice Cream, Candies and such.

  26. I’m now in year 5 of eating primal. For the first 4 years, I was low carb to very low carb, and I never ate any starchy carbs at all. Lost 35 lbs. in the first 6 months, and have kept it off ever since.

    Based on arguments made by Dr. Kurt Harris and also Mark’s perspective here, I began to add white rice and potatoes back into my diet.

    I also monitored my blood sugar levels with a glucose meter to see what effects adding such starchy carbs back into my diet would have…and, of course, I never ate such fare in isolation, always accompanied with nutrient dense foods full of saturated fats, animal protein and veggies.

    Zero effects. I haven’t gained any weight back on, no difference in bloog sugar levels post meal whether I had starchy carbs or not, nor did I experience a reversion back to the old high carb/low fat diet blood sugar energy roller coaster.

    Once again, the original Atkins diet protocol has been vindicated – 1) Cut out all carbs until you lose your excess weight 2) slowly add them back in after you’ve reached your weight loss goals.

    Of course, Atkins original protocol did not even consider things like anti-nutrients and glutens.

    But the best part of this entire experience was gaining an understanding that BROWN RICE is NOT healthier!

    Here in Hawaii, rice is our main staple, many people eat it at every single meal. And plenty of people choose brown rice under this notion that it’s healthier…though almost everyone eating it will admit that white rice is tastier.

    I’ve boggled more than a few minds when people who know me and how much weight I’ve lost and kept off for so long, ask me why I now eat white rice after being low carb for so long. When I tell them white rice is actually healthier than brown because the bran in brown rice blocks nutrient absorption, they look at me as if I told them that the sky is green.

    Why everyone KNOWS that Brown Rice, like all Whole Grains, is HEALTHY!

    1. I know! I grin to myself when I go for sushi and they say that I can opt for brown rice instead, for an extra fee.

      No. Thanks.

    2. haha.

      my colleagues would not believe me when i told them white rice is better than brown rice, whole wheat & oat meals either.

      cheers,

  27. I was recently party to a document (from a big US pharma company) that was in the process of exploiting a burgeoning market in India …

    They manufacture dressings for diabetic ulcers.

    Need I say more?

  28. LOL I love your description of the random assortment of people you get in GG park, its so true ;D

    There is this one specific older Asian lady (there are multiple old asian ladies who do this, but I recognize this woman specifically) who goes around collecting cans and glass bottles, and I see her ALL OVER TOWN. This weekend I saw her in GG Park, but I’ve also seen her across town in Dolores Park and down on the waterfront. Lord knows shes walking and taking public transportation to get around, and hauling bags of recyclables the whole time.

  29. Thank you for this post Mark! I’m Filipino and this explains how I managed to grow up eating rice 3 times a day with a mostly Asian diet and never put on weight, despite being a seated student alot of the time. We never had cereal, and I thought toast tasted life cardboard.

    I started following your blog when I moved out for university and started eating more pasta and bread… and had stomach cramps and digestive issues I had never had before. Rice doesn’t seem to affect me digestively at all, and it was the only part of your Primal Blurprint that had me scratching my head.

    I’m on day 8 of following the Primal way of eating and I’ve lost 5 pounds, sleep better and have no tummy troubles. It’s nice to know I won’t throw off all my progress by agreeing to have dinner at my parent’s once in a while 🙂

  30. “You have to look at the entire picture,”

    ^^THIS is why we like to read your articles & your take on research.
    Well done!

  31. I spent 18 months living in Mongolia where we ate mostly grass fed animals (from nose to tail), fried our food in animal fat (mostly from sheep), drank fermented mare’s milk, walked everywhere we went and played intense pick up basketball games once a week, and had rice with almost every meal…I never lived better (aside from the brutal cold and occassional intestineal distress). The large amounts of rice we ate could barely keep up with all of the other good things we did…it was really only there to fill our bellies.

  32. I have to vouch for the slow movement. I moved to San Francisco last summer (2011) and left my truck at my parents. I moved here just under 320 pounds. For the second half of last year, I ate like crap. But since coming back to the city after the holiday, my diet has tightened up. I do have white rice about once a week, mainly if I make like a gumbo or something. In the month of January, I ate homemade pasta (as in, made from scratch in my kitchen) twice because I wanted to try some pasta sauce recipes.

    While I have been going to the gym to lift, most my activity is walking. If it’s less than twenty blocks and I’m not crunched for time, I just walk. Even if it’s going to be like 30 or 40 blocks, and I’m not crunched for time, I’ll just walk it, or start walking it, if the bus is going to take ten or more minutes to get there..I don’t want to sit on my ass and wait to sit on my ass.

    The results, I’ve lost more than 20 pounds. And remember, my diet has been terrible since I moved to San Francisco (about the last 6 months of the year); but have been walking almost everywhere ever since. Let’s see what happens now that my diet is dialed in haha

  33. This is a great article on a very interesting topic!
    I think that Asians aren’t obese because of all the things that they don’t eat that we do. They don’t binge on cakes, pastries, cookies and potato chips all day long the way the average American does. Sure, they have a couple of bowls of rice a day, but they aren’t also stuffing their faces at odd times with processed junk that has gluten and sugar as the main ingredients. I doubt that hey cpnsume the quantities of soda that we do. Not to mention insane amounts of
    dairy like icecream and chocolate milk that our children consume even before their first birthdays.

    1. You hit the right button.
      I was raised in the farm where processed foods (soda, cakes, pizza, chips, candies, etc…) were not in existence. There’s always rice to eat as part of our meals along with vegestables, roots, fish, and occassional pork/beef. In fact beef and pork are eaten sparingly because they are expensive.
      My family did not own cars, but we owned carts pulled by cows and buffalos to haul heavy loads of timber, coconuts, rice, etc…
      I used to get in the morning at around 6am had breakfast, walked to school, walked back to the house to eat lunch, walked to school, walked back to house, did some house chores, fetched water from the well, had dinner, did homeworks and bedtime.
      When not in school, I worked in the fields to tend fields of rice, coconuts, corn, etc… then tended the livestocks. My favorite parts of the day was eating and hung out with friends.
      Yes, fast foods did not exist in the farm where I grew up in my teen age time.
      When I got to the USA, someone offered me a bowl of cereal (cherrios). I stared at it and asked my self a question, “What kind of seeds or fruits are these?”

      Thank you for reading.

  34. I can tolerate higher carbs because I walk almost everywhere! I don’t like to stuff myself with them, but it’s nice to know there’s more leeway, even if I’m not lifting daily.

    Except for brown, rice lost its appeal when I OD’ed on it as a sick kid. Every time I had the flu? Rice. Insane amounts of it, so I’ve had my fill.

    Question, though: Growing up Italian, we ate a lot of pasta. Not always in quantity (except for at my grandma’s!), but frequency, and always with veg and meat. My mom grew up this way, and she’s always been lean. I’m the same way, though I cut out pasta and grains because of the whole gluten thing. How is it, then, that some people really can eat gluten for their whole lives and not suffer for it? It can’t just be calories in/out, because you don’t sweat gluten out. It’s always been a curiosity to me.

  35. I grew up surrounded by Asian-American families in Hawai’i, I’ve travelled a lot in Asia and lived in Japan for six years.

    Asian food culture is completely different from SAD: simple Japanese cuisine is typically delicious, it’s not saturated with that flavorful, addictive fat/sugar/salt/chili combo like many American foods (including “healthy snacks”, and including “ethnic foods” that are re-formulated for the American palate). Food is typically not marketed and consumed as a form of pure recreation, either.

  36. From dictionary.com this is the definition of paradox:

    “a statement or proposition that seems self-contradictory or absurd but in reality expresses a possible truth.”

    I think its time that people start to reevaluate what they think is healthy. Us Primal folks are already there but there are still millions that are way behind. Maybe if there was one paradox but there are multiple that all point to the same general conclusions.

    Maybe some day most will “get it.”

  37. I love this site, but I think reading this just confirms (to me), that eating a healthy diet of meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and yes wheat if so inclined is totally good for you. Add in some regular exercise and life is good. Half of Mark’s family is vegetarian per the articles on here.

    My 2 cents.

    1. I’m with you on all the food groups that you mention except for wheat. That just isn’t good for anyone. I agree with the spectrum within grains that Mark mentions in his article, with gluten grains being the most egregious and rice being benign. And I know a lot of vegetarians who have chosen to exclude gluten from their diets, recognizing that it just isn’t healthy.

    2. @ John, just to be clear, my wife Carrie eats fish (sometimes twice a day), eggs, cheese and other dairy, and uses my Primal Fuel with whey protein powder to top off protein. My son Kyle eats eggs nearly every day, uses whey protein in shakes, and is a huge fan of butter (and even a bit of cheese now and then). So neither of them is actually vegetarian. Daughter Devyn is a full-on carnivore.

  38. I object to the term “surrender monkeys” and the whole mentality of insulting the French because they didn’t join our criminal war against Iraq.

    Otherwise, a great post.

    1. On the whole, this site has been apolitical, but since you brought it up, world history didn’t begin with the Bush presidency: the French surrendered Paris to the Germans in WWII without without firing a shot, then in 1955 they were humiliated in Viet Nam, De Gaule threw in the towel to Algerian rebels in 1962, and in 1967, abdicated its roll in NATO. Since then, there have been any number of smaller “capitulations,” including their refusal to allow our fly-over when Reagan bombed Tripoli.

      1. You seem to have a strange definition of “surrender”. French did not surrender Paris, they lost the war. After the death of 60 000 soldiers.About humiliation in Vietnam, are you really sure you want to compare USA and France against Vietnam ? I think you don’t. About Algeria, yes, when citizens rebel against colonialist strong enough, they regain sovereignity. France battled way too long. And about NATO, where do you see abdication ? French just quit the organisation … Now if quitting is abdicating, did the USA adbicated when they let the english burn the white house in 1814, and what about Lebannon in 1983, and Somalia in the 90’s ?

        1. It is you who have a strange sense of honor. Contrast the Parisians with residents of Moscow and Leningrad who fought against the Germans house to house after they “lost the war.” FYI, the USA didn’t lose in Viet Nam. We didn’t lose a single engagement, but when Nixon bombed the North into submission, he forced the Communists to sign a peace treaty. The French allowed NATO to defend their eastern flank against the Soviets for 40 years without lifting a finger during the Cold War. That’s abdication. BTW, we won the War of 1812. The USA did not surrender after the British sacked our capital. Lebanon and Somalia were humanitarian “peace inititives” not declared states of war. Odd that you don’t know the difference.

        2. The “+2” is meant for Marc’s excellent comment …decidedly not the response following “+1”!!

    2. Well, yes – that bit is offensive. Btw, I think that at least part of the resentment towards the French by Americans dates back to the Vietnam Era. France and the US were allies and the US entered the Vietnam war largely to protect French interests in Viet Nam – and look what hot water that got the US into. Now the US wants French allies in Iraq and no way. Not saying that any of its right.

      1. Hum … the Dien Bien Phu battle happened in 1954, the vietnam war began in 1959, USA involvement with troops began after the Tonkin incident in 1964 … so long for the french interest.
        The US resentment at the time was fueled by the speech of DeGaulle at Phnom Penh in 1966, with strong critique of the US involvement in the vietnam war.

        1. France made Vietnam part of the French empire in 1868, when the Emperor of Vietnam surrendered to France and signed a treaty.

          France had interest in the natural resources in Vietnam (coal, tin, zinc and rubber) much of which were exported to France to France’s financial advantage.

          The communists in North Vietnam wanted to liberate Vietnam from the French.

          The US was France’s ally and France expected the US to step up to the plate.

          As historically was the case, the US people did not want to get involved in this war. The Gulf of Tonkin incident/resolution was the rationale (PR) given to the public for the US entering the war.

          Same scenario played out around the attack at Pearl Harbor in 1941. The US people needed an reason to believe that going to war was really necessary.

          Fast forward to September 11, 2001, NYC – and the Iraq war.

  39. Thank you first of all for thoroughly addressing this topic. It is one I have always wondered about, and up until now have only found small references to it. As an American who lived in Japan until recently, I can attest to overall health through a naturally active lifestyle: walking and bicycles are the most common form of transportation (to and from train stations, of course), and the outdoors is central to living…many homes don’t even have indoor hallways but rather outdoor corridors. They don’t shield themselves from nature, but rather integrate themselves with it. I would also purport that the decrease in health levels as you mentioned at the end is not in fact due to rice consumption but rather due to the increase in fast food restaurant chains and processed food. After all, rice has been consumed in large quantities for centuries, but health has only declined recently, corresponding to an influx in American food influences.
    And, finally, as a family that still cooks Japanese food at home, I am happy to hear that I won’t always have to pass on the rice with our vegetable curry or stir fried veggies.

    1. I agree with you.
      I love my rice, my walks, love nature, and love simple cooking too.
      I experienced the abuse of eating too much fast foods in the past and suffered with unhealthy physical condition. Then changed back to my old ways of eathing more natural plus rice of course. Now, I am back to healthy again, lost the extra weight I gained thru six years of bad eating.
      Now, I designed my house sorroundings as if I lived in a farm where I used to live….this means, no fast or junk foods, processed or canned foods store in pantry or fridge.
      I snack on fruits, steamed yams, roots, seeds, and coconuts! My real view of true fast foods are FRUITs…just peel and eat it.
      Thank you for reading.

      1. Talusan, you are amazing! Thank you for sharing your past and your present!

  40. I was just flipping through a UK dept of health booklet on diabetes looking at risk factors. Being 45 and over for European people but 25 and over for Asian people was mentioned.

    They also mentioned that eating too much sugar is a myth it is overweight that’s the problem…sooo I don’t know if I can trust ’em.

    Living in NZ we have plenty of Asian people, and I’m surprised at how often I see lovely thin young Asian girls sitting down with only a steak and green salad or even sipping on a bottle of cream.

  41. I’ve read somewhere in a medical book that Asians have genetically larger Pancreas than any other race on this planet.

    1. Yes, and Inuits have larger livers as a result of their long time traditional diets. And, I don’t mean unhealthy, enlarged livers just more robust livers.

  42. I think this speaks to the whole idea of “refuting” a dietary hypothesis by pointing to a population that appears to contradict it.

    I don’t think anyone on this board would say that the Standard American Diet is a healthy one, but the fact is that there are a significant number of people who apparently thrive on it. That doesn’t mean there’s a “SAD Paradox”, it just means that there can be significant differences among individuals, and groups of individuals, that allow them more dietary leeway than the rest of us.

    1. I am totally on board with “individual differences” – always have been. Doing non-normative research isn’t always (ever?) easy but it is valuable.

      Yes, and some people smoke cigarettes into their 90’s with relative impunity, too. Doesn’t mean that cigarettes are heathy – but there we are.

      My husband’s grandmother recently passed away at the age of 102. She regularly smoked cigarettes her entire adult life. She ate SAD, plus Southern fried foods. She never “exercised”. And, she lived in a heavily polluted environment.

      She was wiry, active, and didn’t start to need any extra care from family until shortly before her death. She lived independently until then. She DID develop emphysema but not until her 90’s. She DID develop arthritis in her hands about the same time. Neither issues slowed her down much.

      Go figure.

  43. The cooking oils most used in China today are rape seed oil and peanut oil (for more affluent kitchens). Rape seed oil is the precursor to canola oil, developed by Canadian scientists to lessen the plant toxins in rape seed oil. Hard to know when they started this switch over to vegetable oils. Rape seed oil was used in the West as a machine oil in the 19th century and was considered unfit for human consumption until they figured out a way to purify it. Prior to that people used lard. The switch was probably made for economic reasons rather than a public health initiative as in the West.

  44. Of all the cereal grains that I gave up for the sake of PB, rice is the only one I still eat periodically; I eat sushi once a week and if I go out for Asian food will have a little bit with my meal. In my case it is the only cereal grain that doesn’t cause significant gut issues.

  45. I just came back from Thailand. Training twice a day, I decided to put oatmeal, rice, and noodles back in my diet, (also took coffee out). After 4 weeks I had belly fat creeping over my waistband. I eliminated the grains, added the coffee back, and in 2 weeks, the fat was gone! BTW, you will see plenty of “chubby” folks in Asia!

  46. I completely agree with this article. I also agree with Keoni Galt’s comment – although I am still exploring the issue about rice bran being an anti-nutrient and white rice being a better form. There are other options – like American bred and raised light brown basmati.

    As always, the bottom line is how our own bodies responds – and as Keoni Galt and others here point out that response can change over time and changing bodies/circumstances. I, too, am following the practice of glucose monitoring. I believe – at this point – that I am benefitting from eliminating oats and the little bit of rice that I ate pre-primal – had already eliminated ALL gluten foods months before on general principles.

    When I have normalized my body composition and health in general, I may add back a few foods like rice – but always accompanied by glucose monitoring and the trusty old tape measure for measuring the waist. Evidently, waist circumference is now considered a stand alone risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

  47. I’ve noticed that the Asian diet barely contains any dairy or dairy products. So two of the most common food intolerances are generally avoided – wheat and dairy.

  48. Thank you for dispelling the myth that Asians eat endless bowls of rice.
    My mother is Korean and she was always curbing our rice intake, let alone the Western carbs. We never had sugar, fruit juices, cereals, ice cream, cookies, etc.
    Your article made me hungry for Korean food again!

  49. I loved to hear Mark’s comments on the way the older folks in GG park were “exercising”. I have never been into exercising for the sake of it, though I walk my dogs every day and walk or ride my bike to do errands. When I switched to 80% paleo diet I lost 22 pounds in about 6 months w/o changing my exercise.

    In January my husband and I switched to 100% paleo and started doing some light work outs, I’ve lost another 5 pounds. I wasn’t doing it to loose weight, I wanted to gain strength and support my husband who is trying to loose weight. But the benifits of the paleo diet, go beyond weight loss, I sleep better than I ever have and have so much more energy. I feel stronger than I did 10 years ago and at 51 that is saying something.

    1. Yes, me too! I bought a new bike last year – and got an old school, minimalist “cruiser” type. My 90 yo neighbor and I go for leisurely spins around the neighborhood. Life is good :-).

  50. Except that obesity is but one expression of poor glucose control and insulin resistance, which Asians have plenty of. People stuck on just “obesity” is missing the big picture.

    1. True. I am not obese and not diabetic. I am overweight and my triglycerides are elevating. According to current ADA guidelines, and my doctor, I have healthy glucose levels. BUT, according to my own body and my research, confirmed via glucose monitoring at home, I am developing dysglycemia. I am heading potential health crisis off at the pass and getting my body normalized now.

  51. when was rice cultivated in Asia? i think it’s < 10k years?

    When i visited family in Taiwan, i noticed there were a lot of _elderly_ in the parks, early in morning, exercising (Tai-chi, sword, or dance, walking) or socializing.

    i stayed in a small residence hotel that offered continental breakfast, it was made every morning.

    it was not gourmet food, tasted very homey. there was always white rice (in various form), egg, meat, some sauteed veg, salad, fruit, bread, small desserts, milk, soy milk (plain, & very _beany_), coffee, toast.

    so for a month, i had THREE FULL HEARTY MEALS almost everyday. & my bowl movement was so regular. (oh, there was plenty of squatting toilets too, LOL)

    people like to sit down to eat there. even for busy working people, lunch break was a big thing. they don't like grabbing a "quick bite" for lunch.

    btw, my grandma cooked w/ lard; (white) rice porridge cooked in broth + egg + salt is what she'd feed us after a diarrhea. in our family a meal has to have rice, meat, veg. fruit is served @ the end as dessert.

    but i'm sure most switched to "heart healthy" seed oil there now.

    despite having hearty meals everyday (probably cooked in inferior fats), i never once had sugar cravings, i also lost a little weight.

    this was before i switched my diet.
    but it was my first revelation that why they appear to eat more heartily & weigh less.

    sadly things are changing in Asia too.

    regards,

  52. I eat white rice regularly – so shoot me! I probably eat a small amount once or twice a week. I started doing this a couple of months ago on the direction of my naturopath (who is primal). He felt my diet was too low-carb and had caused a big stall on my weight-loss journey. Low & behold, when I started adding in more healthy carbs (like white rice, sweet potatoes, white/yellow potatoes and other starchy veggies), I started losing weight again after many many months of not losing a thing. White rice is the only grain I eat, and I do eat it in small amounts.

    1. I hear you right, I love rice along with vegestable cooked in coconut milk plus water/garlic/onions/ginger/tomato/sea salt and put some fish meats. Love to sip hot broth. I love this kind of food to eat following a very physical, sweating, and long hard work in the farm or garden. Men, love this food!

      Thank you for reading.

  53. Good post Mark, I love me some basmati white rice myself. As mentioned, it is neutral, but can be made nutritious if you add some coconut milk or beef tallow to it. I personally think rice is also great with seaweed in it. And if everything else in the diet is wonderfully nutritious than have some neutral starch that makes the diet a whole lot more enjoyable isn’t going to hurt. This is pretty much the Perfect Health Diet’s claim to fame (don’t get me wrong though, I love that entire book), and I completely agree with them.

  54. So an excess of 150 grams of carbohydrates per day doesn’t necessarily mean insidious weight gain ( and you don’t even have to be a marathon runner or even a runner for this to be true).

  55. The reality is that rice is not as evil as some primal/paleo practitioners like to think.

    I want to reiterate the note about nutrition density. Asian meals are generally very nutritious and varied. Growing up, our dinners always consisted of 2-3 different dishes. Soups, stews, grilled meats, stir fried, steamed, etc. The “restaurant” experience was everyday life. Vegetables were always part of the dish itself, instead of something off to the side. One didn’t make a conscious effort to eat vegetables–they were just there. Asian cultures also feature a lot of stews and soups with nutritious hearty broths. Soups as a meal doesn’t really exist in the American diet.

    And we really don’t eat that much rice. Sure, more than the typical American, but we’re not gorging ourselves. A small amount of rice goes a long way in filling you up. Serving sizes for meals are much smaller than American portions.

    Asians also typically don’t chronically snack like Americans tend to do. There are three meals and that’s it. A snack is a true treat.

    1. I’ve heard paleo/primal people more refer to rice with a “why bother?” than decry it as evil, but I get your point.

      I’m in the “why bother?” most of the time. It’s just not all that interesting a food.

  56. We eat rice, never stopped. It’s cheap and a great filler. Me and my kids get smaller portions of rice but my insulin sensitive husband gets as much as he wants(he has a very active job). I love rice!

  57. I also lived in Korea for a wint season, (DoD civilian) I loved being among the locals and eating as they do. I wish I had known what I know now about food and would never bought a rice cooker. I remember washing the rice etc, I bought from the local markets then as well most of my food. I also bought from the PX but I had a great landlady who showed me many great recipes etc. I practically lived off of kimchi and rice and occasionally bulgolgi etc. I hoped I would lose some weight then (I was 20 then) and never lost a pound. Everyone said it was because it was winter, I don’t deal with cold, all the myths. Now I understand I had a low tolerance for the carb load I was ingesting even as I ate about the same the locals who were seemingly slimmer than me. Even then fast food was becoming more common in such places as Soeul, but not yet in the smaller towns where I was. I never even missed the dairy. All the meat still was grassfed local meat even on the base.

  58. I’ve just come back from living in China (Yunan Province) for 2 years. I went primal one year ago, following my wife who is a big MDA fan. My observations from eating with Chinese friends and family are as follows:
    1) In cities, rice is seen as a filler at the end of the meal and served in small amounts (if at all). In the very poor rural areas, rice forms a much larger part of the meal, with vegetables – less-so meat.
    2) Eating with chopsticks from small bowls (even when brought up to the mouth) means that people fill up faster without putting away large portion sizes as we do in the West.
    3) It is virtually impossible to buy meat without bones in the local wet markets. They also eat every part of the animal. A skinless, boneless chicken breast is considered the worse cut of chicken in China.
    4) Although the older and poorer people still use lard to cook, in the cities, industrialised oils are pervasive.
    5) Every time I visited Shanghai or Beijing and popped into a Macdonalds to use the bathroom (believe me you do go out of your way to find these!), I would be astounded at the number of fat teenage Chinese in there – grotesque!
    6) Chinese historically ate very little dairy. I don’t know if there is a link, but rates of breast cancer in China (1 in 10,000) are quite a bit lower than the 1in 10 in the West…except for those Chinese who emigrate to the West and eat/drink dairy and have the same ratio. Makes you think though!

  59. I just had an anthropometric lab last week where we calculated our “frame size”. Almost everyone in the class is of European descent and almost everyone classified as a “medium” frame size. I have to wonder if Asians, in general, calculate as “small” frame size.

  60. Like you Mark, I too dabble in the art of ‘park observation’ (not in a creepy way:) but the people at my park are far less interesting (and far less…Asian)haha
    Good points in regard to the the balance between rice and the other nutrient-rich foods Asians eat.I think we health and well being enthusiasts can be guilty of throwing the baby out with the bath water at times rather than looking at the whole picture,so well done.

  61. Spent a fair amount of time working in Asia and Japan. There is a lot rice served, but eaten in small servings. Rice seemed to be used mostly as a bed to serve all the good bits on. I would always eat all the rice and ask for more, which seemed weird as I would be only one doing that. In China, it seemed that all parts (head to tail) of the pig, cow, chicken, or duck was used. One rarely saw a actual steak or pork chop. Peking duck is just that, a whole roasted duck, head and feet included. More lit bits of this and that. Lots of “other” meats included snake, frog (paddy chicken), eel, snails, etc. Most of these were brought to the table live, on ordering, so you could verify that indeed they were fresh. Different regions have different specialties. Since going primal, have been jonesing for the pork fatback served in Taiwan. Imagine a 2″ piece of fat, with a thin layer of meat. Not sure how it was actually cooked, but the fat would melt in your mouth. This was served on top of a small bowl of rice, to soak up the juice and nibble on.
    As far as exercise, Mark is totally spot on. In Bejing, at the Temple of Heaven, you see folks walking backwards slowly, usually over the uneven bricks that accented the main promenade, maybe a mile long. Parks and public spaces had stretches of walk ways with large pebbles sunk in the concrete. People would walk over these barefoot, free reflexology. Lots of cheap bikes everywhere and used for hauling pretty big loads also. Once saw a old man, maybe in his 70’s with a 3 wheeler and a full load of coal brick in the back (bed was about the size of a small pick up) A lot of bikes getting pushed out by mopeds though, all across Asia. Lots of manual labor in the large construction projects. You would see like 5 guys carrying a large bundle of 20′ pieces of re-bar. Tractors and back hoes were used, but there were armies of guys with picks and shovels too. There were so many small things that you would observe. They are making a lot more sense to me now.

  62. anyone who thinks there is a paradox needs their head read. This article is not one of your best Mark, playing to simple observation studies. Some of the highest rates of diabetes in the world and fastest growing are asian countries. Having spent the last 9 months in asia i can safely say, there is no paradox.

    1. Agreed. This post is pretty terrible, in that it is mainly observational and anecdotal in nature. I see people in the park so….

      I’ve lived in Asia. While rice is present at meals, it isn’t typically eaten in large quantities, not by western standards. This could be a long post but i don’t have the time.

      Anyways, the question is would Asians be healthier if they didn’t eat rice?

  63. Hey I’m Asian and I don’t eat a lot of rice. Just kidding.

    My family actually eats a lot of brown of rice which is better I guess, but in general, the majority of Asian dishes are rice or noodle centric.

    But they also use a lot veggies and lean meats as well.

  64. Portion Size & Slow Exercise:
    Ive just returned from Thailand – and every time im there, im always reminded by how small their portions are.
    Im tall/skinny, but can easily down 2 or 3 mains at a ‘local’ thai eatery.
    When i travel to the US, i struggle thru a single main course at a local restaurant.

    And due to the sheer number of people, everyone walks/trains/buses to work/school etc…

  65. Its only a paradox if you buy the silly notion that carb consumption leads to “insidious weight gain”. You’re a genius yo.

  66. Monsanto and McDonalds will snuff out this paradox soon enough. Asians can get just as fat on SAD as anyone. My fat nephews and nieces (Thai) can attest to that.

  67. As an Asian, I’m quite proud of this informative article. My parents said when they were young & poor, they survived with only rice & kimchi. They were still very active, working the entire day out in the rice field, etc. But like you mention, our diet and lifestyle are changing rapidly, so as the percentage of overweight people. Very unfortunate, indeed.

  68. Are you still against white rice in reasonably small quantities as a source of glucose calories? I know root vegetables like sweet potatoes are more nutritious, but white rice isn’t inherently bad.

    1. I believe Mark said it was okay, since it doesn’t contain the same inflammatory compounds as other grains.

      1. Where did you see/hear that from Mark?

        In the 21 day transformation book rice is listed in the purge the pantry section with the other grains:

        “Cereal, corn, pasta, rice and wheat:….”pg 91

        And in the PB book he says “Grains – wheat, rice, corn, bread, cereal, pasta, etc. “Worst mistake in the history of the human race.””pg 2

        1. That “worst mistake” is a quote from an anthropologist that has implications beyond dietary. Mark has written on article on this site talking about how white rice is not so bad. Like, if you’re going to go for a grain, might as well be that.

        2. Yes, Nick W. I saw the reference in the book to Jared Diamond – with regard to that statement. Diamond is an evolutionary biologist not an anthropologist. And, while Diamond’s argument IS much broader than diet, in Mark’s book the entire context in which he made that quote was regarding diet.

          What I am saying is that Mark’s books place rice solidly in the same category as other grains – with specific reference to dietary issues in general. The discussions I am referring to in his books are not made with regard to specific issues like gluten intolerance but to more general issues like insulin resistance.

          That said, I will search the blog to see else he may have said here about rice.

    2. What’s the point of eating something that doesn’t give you much nutrients when you can fill that space with some nutrient dense stuff like meat or veg.

      White rice are mostly polished and that removes even more nutrients.

      I can eat meat/veg by itself but no way i can down rice by itself without any side dish.

  69. The thing that struck me most about this article was his discussion of the American car culture. As an EMT, I see the effects of our sedentary ways on a daily basis especially among the 40 to 60 age group.

    Surprisingly, the over 60 crowd seems to be doing things the way they’ve always done them; long walks or bike rides with the intent to accomplish some errands and they are all the more healthy for it. The 40 to 60 year olds hop in the car to pick up something from the store only a few blocks away and spend most of their time in front of the TV or computer only to lament that they get out of breath just walking up a flight of stairs.

    And, in retrospect, I am disappointed in just how sedentary I’ve become. My day is filled with short spurts of intense activity followed by long intervals of sitting in the ambulance eating junk.

  70. I’m from Sweden, but have spent 6 of the last 8 years living in Vietnam. Part of that time I’ve spent teaching English to children and adults. Based on my observations of middle-class childrearing here, I predict an urban obesity epidemic within the next 10 years. Being fat, or at least chubby, is still considered healthy here, signaling that you come from a rich family. Consequently, parents have no qualms about buying their kids little mini-bags of potato chips, accompanied by mini-packs of sweetened milk with various flavors. Of 30 or so yoghurt brands, 2 are unsweetened, and all are sold in mini-containers. Everything is optimized for parents to be able to give their kids a quick sugarfix wherever they demand it. In many of my classes I’ve had obese children (often with probable blood sugar-related behavioral issues) with literally rotting teeth. Again, these are not poor children, but children whose parents either have never learned to say no, or who are unaware of the damage they are doing to their kids. While working as the class teacher for a group of Korean 6-year-olds at an international kindergarten, I had to implore parents in the weekly newsletter not to let their kids bring soft drinks, candy and chips into the classroom, and it wasn’t rare for an over-“caring” mother to drop in with a bag full of insanely sweetened birds nest drinks for the whole class. This is still such a new phenomenon (Vietnam’s middle class having grown enormously in the last 10 years) that only the kids who are genetically predisposed to early insulin resistance (presumably) are currently obese. But as this generation grows older, unless their dietary habits change, there will likely be many who succumb to obesity later in life. Another problems is that massive advertising of brands like Chin-Su, sauces and condiments packed with more additives (especially MSG), colorants and preservatives than I’ve seen in any product, have made them the stock of homes and restaurants. The nearest supermarket now carries ONE brand of unadulterated fish sauce. I could go on and on…

    1. Bit of a correction: For Vietnamese boys/men chubbiness is considered good. For girls, slim is the ideal. (actually a healthy slim, it is very common for Vietnamese girls to encourage friends to eat more to gain some weight if they look too skinny).

  71. I have been awaiting this article for a long, long time! Thanks Mark!!

  72. I’m Chinese and growing up, I was always told not to eat much of the rice. Most of our home cooked meals consisted of 2 meats 1 vegetable dish and a soup which usually has more meat and vegetables. If we ate more than a small bowl of rice, we would be called “rice trash cans”!

  73. Asians acknowledge that rice and wheat products are fillers, and pretty much never order them when having a family feast. Instead, we order whole animals, like fish, crab, and duck. The exceptions are:
    – For Lunar New Year’s, we eat fried egg rolls because they look like gold bars. They signify wealth.
    – For birthdays (or new year’s), we eat noodles because they signify long life.
    We still order animals and vegetables, though. They make up the majority of the meal.

    Also, when people get sick, they are to eat Xi Fan (rice porridge) for energy. As they get well, they can add dried shredded pork, pickled cucumbers, and raw peanuts to the porridge. This technique works really well for me, because I can’t stomach fatty foods when I’m sick. Inert, carb-rich foods like white rice is perfect.

    1. Hello Reiko! I am curious as to why you are talking about Chinese food, when your name leads me to believe you are Japanese. Are coming from a Japanese or a Chinese perspective?

  74. I am from Singapore and can assure u that obesity rates in the country is definitely rising.
    One of the saving point for us is that our cars are expensive and this forces most people to use public transport and where walking is essential to get you from point to point.

    Regardless, there is plenty of food cheaply available in Singapore hawker centers that is flour-centric and lots of cheap vegetable oils.
    1 meal cost about US$2-4 in the hawker centers and mostly nutrient deficient.

  75. my hypothesis is that they are not just thin, they’re rake thin, and they are short. They are collectively suffering from generations of malnourishment. And that malnourishment comes from eating too much rice. It’s the epigenetics.

  76. I spent many months in West Africa in college and my size 6 blew up by 15-20 pounds off rice, beans, plantain, and palm oil. The locals who ate the same yummy stuff I did were gorgeous and slim and well-muscled (males and females both). Middle-aged women (but not men), however, tended to be fat.

    I will never understand the difference between myself (and the other newly fat foreign students) and the locals — genetics? Or did they eat fewer meals than us?: portions were HUGE. I think three of those a day was my problem. (…My very yummy problem…)

  77. Also wanted to add that I am endeared by the reference to GG Park. That is my stomping grounds: I will out myself as one of the over-spandexed runners. I used to run Stow Lake at 5:30 in the morning and it was me, the other neurotic white people running crazed laps, and then dozens of Asian older couples looking like they’re having nice conversation (again, at at 5:30 in the morning!) Hilarious…

  78. Amen Mark!
    I LOVE Asian cuisine. I am not so keen on the Americanization of it, but for me, the best place to geek out is in old Chinatown.
    I used to be a chef of a Pan Asian restaurant, and let me tell you, when you can’t even read the names of some of the ingredients, it is a real treat.
    One of my most favorite dishes is called Ma Po Doufu. It’s a szchewan dish made from pork, szchewan peppers, fermented black beans, in a broth made from pork fat + juices simmered over a long period of time. Just before service, you add rice and fresh tofu cubes. Totally divine. Of course, you use the traditional tofu – not the stuff that is sold to the Americans these days.
    One thing a lot of people don’t understand about Asian cusine is that unlike Americans, traditionally there is not a lot of meat consumption. The people just couldn’t afford to only eat chicken breasts. They ate EVERYTHING, cooked in the fat, even ate the chicken with the heads on!
    Go to an Asian market, and you will see what I mean. You see the chickens there, heads on, feet on, hanging. They have been dressed for you, that’s about it. There’s no boneless skinless chicken breasts for you there.
    That reminded me of another favorite dish of mine when I was younger – braised duck feet. That’s right. Duck feet.
    Asian people usually get their bowl of rice, the vegetables to go with it – a bit of sauce, and maybe sometimes a bit of meat to go along with it. (And they were happy to get the meat, no questions asked!)
    Interestingly, not a lot of beef is eaten over there, because it is an animal for burden…

    Couple that with the food being cooked in animal fat traditionally, and you have the basis of what the Asian diet really is.

    Not what the China Study says is a “meatless” diet. They may not have meat in the dish – but it was traditionally cooked in animal fats, and bone broths.

    Fantabulous post Mark! Thank you for this!

  79. I lived in Korea for a year and got to know the Korean culture very well. What I noticed is that 1) yes, there are so many more people walking, and, 2) rice may be served often throughout the week, but it was just a little something to go with their meat and veggies. They really don’t eat as much rice as a lot of people believe. Just my experience, though.

  80. I came across a link about carbohydrates and sleep onset http://www.ajcn.org/content/85/2/426.full
    and discovered that different kinds of white rice have different glycemic indexes. The ones used in the study differed by more than 50 points! (Mahatma = 50 and Jasmine = 109). That kind of blew me away.

  81. I’ve been gluten-free for almost a year now but have increasingly become intolerant to other grains, including rice and even pseudo-grains like quinoa. (When you’re gluten-free, rice is in everything that normally is made from wheat, so I ate a lot of rice products.)

    Last week I started the primal diet because I needed to get enough food in my almost vegan diet without eating grains or pseudo-grains.

    So my question is: When I was eating grains (and a lot of them) I was not gaining weight and sometimes in fact losing weight. I suspect I’ve already lost a couple pounds on the primal diet. How can I keep my weight, even possibly gain 5-10 pounds back on the primal diet?

  82. This was a big part of why I moved to Japan. I thought eating the food would improve my health and help me lose weight. So a year and a half of living in Japan I was about 20 pounds heavier. The traditional diet is great, but few people eat that now. My students eat ice cream and French fries as their lunch, and I imagine in 10-20 years they will have to think more carefully about diet as well.

    One big thing though, is people are not afraid of fat here. I have a cook book that talks about the health virtues of pork belly.

    Skinny fat is definitely true though. I will see teacher and kids (this is high school so they aren’t that small) working in teams to carry chairs during an assembly as I walk by carrying 6 by myself. They are skinny, but very few have any strength.

  83. It’s so true about the asian people using their bodies as their transport. They stay active all their life and I’m sure this helps to offset the rice rich diet. And so true about the less wheat. I gave up wheat for good about a month ago and have noticed a huuuuge difference. I still have some carbs though, and I’m glad rice is the least offensive because I love a little with my dinner. Steamed brown rice is my fave atm! I love how mark explains that at the end of the day, there is a reason for everything….enigma explained!

  84. My 82 year old grandfather has eaten wheat and rice and vegetarian food all his life and is lean and sprightly with no illnesses at all.
    He also hasn’t missed his morning walk at 6:30 am to 7:30 am for as long as anybody remembers and sleeps at 10 pm for 8 hours every night. I’ve never seen him over indulging in sweets and he has always been extremely active and always up to something new.
    So I’m assuming that it’s all these elements together that have worked for him.

  85. If you’re Asian and can eat rice, then good for you :-).

    But as a European caucasian, my body has proven to me time and again that I can’t handle starch. Period. End of story. We can talk all day about anti-nutrients, but I’m steering clear of all high-starch foods, anti-nutrients or none.

  86. I spent two weeks in Japan and I was not too happy with the diet. It was healthy and full of nice things, but I needed to eat regularly or feel miserable. Basically, I ate rice and I burned carbs. The rice was not much in total- steamed, it was light and fluffy.

    Our hosts constantly worried to get us to eat on time.

    But I loved the pedestrian zones in the cities. Lots of walking.

    And people wore flat shoes, women too. When I saw a Japanese woman in heels, I had to double-check if she was not a foreigner, her body, being out of alignment, looked different.

  87. OK, I see more and more of this Franco- phobia among “educated” English speaking people and it astounds me. Would you bash an African American or Asian, or an Israeli in this manner? It’s just not cool.
    I live in Provence France,and am so glad my local butcher only carries grass fed meat and knows exactly which pasture and farmer his animals come from, and he is proud, healthy, polite, even to Americans.He is good friends with the vegetable stand folk next door where one can pick from a cornucopia of local, labeled as to source produce.
    The French traditionally only stuff themselves with this rich stuff at family feasts, and usually have small portions of meat, a starch, like bread or potatoes, sometimes a legume like lentils, and vegetables – salades with vegetable soups at night.
    My folks have been doing it since at least the year 800 AD, had a garden, animals, small orchards &vineyards and they all lived to around 100,if not bombed to death in wars. They were simple but educated people and they led happy lives without obesity, diabetes,heart disease, etc.
    Going primal here simply means cutting the carbs, bread, lentils etc.
    My folks’ city displaced children have, like Americans,had a different fate. Just like in America, all those nasty things are starting to happen, And the big (US?)mega food conglomerates and culture industry of credit and spending and suburban couch potato living are to blame. There is a paradox for you.

  88. I don’t buy the ‘walk all day’ theory. It is actually the biggest problem I have with the Mark Sission version if primal.

    I’m a plumber, and in the trades you see tons of guys who walk all day. All day. It doesn’t do them any good. In fact I think it makes them hungry which leads to pigging out. I think sugar is the difference. Maybe wheat as well.

    Just my 2 cents.

  89. This post has many wrong notions & deductions. First of all, china & other oriental countries are not the only Asian countries. Secondly, almost all Asian countries suffer from obesity and other lifestyle related diseases nowadays due to bad food habits and lack of physical activity.

    Secondly, “People living in Asian countries have historically been more active than people living in the States.” doesn’t really make any sense. If you have got vehicles then you will travel by it otherwise you will walk./ Same thing happened in Asia where development reached quite late.It’s not that Asians are more active. Higher % of people used to live in villages where modes of transport are fewer and life bit more hard.

    Westerners try to make every thing so complex. Primal and other diets which simulate eating habits of our ancestors is just stupid. Just see how tribals in Africa live. They get maybe 1 small boar after many days of hard labor and futile attempts. And that too has to be shared by 2 dozen members.

    Anyone among you doing this kind of primal diet? NO, you are sitting in your dining table and eating lot of meat. I don’t see anything primal in it.

    Want to lose weight? Just eat 25% less food. Throw away junk and packaged food. Eat veggies, fruits, eggs and meat. You will do fine. It’s just that it wont be as “cool” as the “primal” diet

    1. Primal doesn’t simulate eating habits as it would be a fortunate tribesman indeed who could access the quantities and varieties of foods we can. It argues that we should choose the foods we eat given their bioavailability and nutritional value, which is based on our evolutionary biology. It starts the argument from a certain historical perspective, but is not the whole argument.

      As a Westerner, I’ve learned that things are often more complex than they appear at first glance. It has nothing to do with being cool (though I am cool).

    2. Sounds like you just don’t like the ‘primal’ label. When you throw away junk food and packaged food you will naturally eat less food (maybe ~25% less). You will be eating veggies, fruits, eggs and meat just like you suggest.
      Have you been to a ‘primal’ person’s dinner table? Mine has a lot more volume of veggies than meat, so it seems like you’re making some false assumptions here because you don’t like the label. Well actually it sounds like you’re misinterpreting what many people view as a primal approach to diet – it’s not meant to be a simulation but a framework for thinking about nutrition from a historical perspective.

  90. Took me like 30 seconds to scroll down the comments board. Does that count as low level aerobic activity?

  91. I was in Hanoi, Vietnam in November and I didn’t see a single overweight person (of the Vietnamese variety, not Yanks or Germans). That’s why when I saw the statement that Vietnam is undergoing a surge in diabetes I thought it strange, until the next sentence said that part of this is due to stress. The scooter traffic in Hanoi is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever witnessed. The idea of opening a window in a hotel or home is insane due to the outrageous symphony of car and scooter horns. And the air, oh, the air. Horrendous.

  92. (jumping on a quite-highly-piled bandwagon) What do both cultures have in common? Both move more than we do–French and Asian people move more UNDER THEIR OWN POWER (walk, bike, etc.) than we do, so there really is no paradox.

    Cars (as are TVs) are for the rich. If you expend more energy just in daily living, yes you can get away with eating more carbs, and expect them not to stick to you.

    We were skinny once, and ate lots of carbs–we also moved more under our own power, too. Then came mechanization, TV, the car, and places to drive it to (including the drive-up window). Now some of us can’t even check our mail without driving to the mailbox up the street…and IT SHOWS!

  93. What about soy sauce? I am having a hard time avoiding the wheat based sauce in Asian food.

  94. My 102 year-old grandfather and my late grandmother (98 years-old when she died) ate a diet and had lifestyle similar to what Mark described. Both of them lived in Taiwan, but spent a great number years, their formative years really, under Japanese occupation of Taiwan. For a time, they considered themselves Japanese citizens. Let me tell you what traditional Taiwanese and Japanese diet/ lifestyle did to their longevity.

    First, the amalgam of Taiwanese and Japanese diet is very similar to those of traditional Okinawan diet. Main animal proteins consumed were pork, seafood, free range chicken, and eggs. Soybeans in form of fermented condiments, miso, and tofu (fermented and fresh) were also consumed regularly. Not one food, including animal protein, took center stage in a meal. They didn’t eat chunks of steak. Almost all meals even breakfast, included soup made with fish, pork ribs, or chicken bones.

    My grandparents mostly ate dishes which were slow-simmered, steamed, or stir-fried in rendered fat from pork or chicken. Only later did they started to use crappy Omega-6 vegetable oil in addition to lard, at the urging of doctors and younger relatives who falsely thought lard to be unhealthy. Interestingly, about 15 years or so after she began consuming vegetable oil, my otherwise healthy and thin grandmother, in her mid-70s then, developed blocked coronary arteries. My grandfather remained healthy because he didn’t care for stir-fried dishes as much as my grandmother to begin with, so he mainly continued eating traditionally prepared dishes.

    Rice or food made with rice were eaten with meals, while bread and other wheat products were considered luxury items or special treats. My grandparents’ generation didn’t think wheat was as filling or healthy as rice, so even if they do eat steamed bun for breakfast, they will often sneak a few bites of rice as well!

    Mark is right about physical activities being incorporated into everyday life not as a chore to lose weight, but as part of health and balance. My grandfather stayed at a lean weight throughout his life up until now. The only health problem he has is his eyesight not as good as when younger. But otherwise, he’s not on any medications, in fact he still takes daily walks with friends.

    During the time when the Japanese occupied Taiwan and for years afterwards, Taiwanese culture was very much influenced by the Japanese. One of these was baseball. My grandfather worked as an accountant for a Japanese company in Taiwan. He played baseball on the company team (every company had a baseball team) until well into his late 40s. Furthermore, his physical activities weren’t limited to the baseball field. Every morning, he would wake up at dawn, do some chores like gardening, tend to fruit trees, feed their chickens, and always ended his morning BEFORE breakfast by sweeping the vast courtyard and doing deep breathing/ calisthenics. THEN it’s time for breakfast!

    This is what typical meals looks like:
    Breakfast: leftover soup from previous night’s dinner, fresh eggs fried in lard, fermented tofu cubes, stir-fried dried pickled daikon with anchovies, and of course a small bowl of rice.

    Lunch: Stirred-fried green veggies with nigari tofu and garlic, slow-simmered pork or chicken stew with meat/ tendons/ fatty parts, miso soup with seaweed, rice, and fresh fruit from the garden.

    Dinner: Whole fish or other seafood like squid or shrimp, vegetable soup with seasonal vegetables and made with pork bone broth, stirred-fried green veggies (many Asian varieties) with garlic, leftover meat stew from lunch, rice, and small amount of fruit for dessert. Then their neighbors come over after dinner and all of them gather to drink green tea and talk about politics and anything under the sun.

    During the day and in between meals, my grandfather would drink several cups of green tea….he said they gave him calmness and mental clarity needed at work. He’s been retired for decades but he still drinks his green tea.

  95. Before you get all excited about, “healthy Asian diets,” keep in mind that stomach cancer is huge in Japan and China. Anything fresh is pickled and salted. I hate vegs and fruit. I do. I choke them down every day, but I LOATHE them. After 3 weeks in Japan I was craving that mess because I actually physically missed it!

  96. Being Asian and growing up in a Taiwanese-American family, I think I may have something to contribute:
    – Several of my aunts/uncles, who live in Taiwan, developed type 2 diabetes before I was born. 3 out of 4 of my grandparents had it as well. My grandmother, who lived with me in America, was very overweight.
    – Rice bowls in most Asian households I visited were small.
    – I grew up with a single mother, who didn’t have time to cook for us. Therefore, we all ate a lot of American processed and sugary foods and I grew up slightly overweight with a lot of health problems. My sister was always thin, but as she entered her 20s, her health problems came up as well (pre-diabetic, insulin resistant, PCOS). My Asian friends who had more “traditional” diets ate lots of vegetables, meat, fish, and rice, and were very thin, until they went to college.
    – Rice bowls, at least in our Taiwanese-American circles, were really small. One could fit maybe a little more than a cup or so of cooked rice; maybe 200 calories. So we weren’t eating rice by the bowlfuls.
    – We had constant pressure to be thin (especially as girls). Most Asian American girls I knew growing up were very frail or carried their extra weight well because they had small frames.

    Basically, rice is not a miracle food or a special magical carb, and Asians aren’t immune to weight gain and diseases. Also, just to note, Asian diets these days include a lot of wheat. Dumplings are made of wheat skin. Northern China’s primary carb source are bread and noodles. Asian bakeries are very popular for quick snacks.

    1. Do you suppose the diabetes is genetic predisposition?

      My best friend is Chinese. She got gestational diabetes with both pregnancies and has to be careful even now (even though she is thin and always has been). Her mother and sister had the same problem.

    1. Arabs brought rice to Spain, the Spanish brought it to the New World.

  97. Nice! I eat a small-moderate amount of rice, but it is my only grain, I eat lots of grass-fed meat. including organs, marrow, etc, lots of wild seafood, including shellfish and roe, lots of mineral-rich bone broth, seaweed, and many organic vegetables–plus coconut oil, ghee, lard. I am a stay-at-home mom of a 5 year old boy and a 100lb puppy–I move around and up and down in my house as well as all around our neighborhood, town, parks, stores, etc all day long–but no formal workouts. I am 5’4″ and I weigh 117 pounds and am a size 4. I guess I am asian LOL. (I am caucasian of Western European descent).

  98. I’ve just starting reading a new book that addresses a number of the issues that we’ve been discussing here about carbohydrates; human evolution in relation to carbohydrate availability; carbohydrate intolerance; nutritional ketosis; the role of carbohydrates in dyslipidemia – and a whole lot more.

    The authors give evidenced based references for everything they say. They make the science accessible. They make it easier for patients to discuss these issues with their doctors.

    They address medical doctors with regard to the need to reevaluate the role of low carb diets for the estimated 3 in 4 people who will sometime over their lifetime develop carb intolerance. They talk about reasons why those 3 (in 4) people hypothetically became carb intolerant and specifically how to reverse that condition in relation to various levels of severity. They provide support and guidance in living a long term, sustainable low carb diet.

    “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” (2011), Jeff S. Volek, PhD, RD & Stephen D. Phinney, MD, PhD. ISBN 978-0-9834907-0-8

  99. Until the 1970s in Korea barley was mixed with rice due to not growing enough to feed everyone. It was considered very high class to eat white rice and poor farmers sold almost all their rice and ate greens, Kimch, and a little barley rice. Most farmers do not own their land -the wealthy do and they practice a form of share cropping. The fattest orientals I ever saw was in San Fransico. I lived in asia for three years and only the wealthy have much meat or fat on them. It’s considered a compliment to say you are chubby or fat, it means you have money and eat well.

  100. A friend who went to China to watch the Olympics noted that fried corn is popular there, and I would wonder how much of that is GMO corn.

  101. A number of years ago, I practiced Aikido, a Japanese martial art, taught by a Japanese man from the Akita Prefecture in Japan. He came from an extremely rural area, and around the time I started training in his Dojo, he opened up a Japanese “country foods” restaurant here in Denver (It’s called Domo). Most people, when eating there the first time, are quite surprised by the food, which is all based on the same foods that Homma Sensei ate (and cooked) while growing up and training in Aikido. Sure, there’s rice (your choice of white rice mixed with barley or brown rice), but each dinner entree comes with seven side dishes, which are meat, vegetables, tofu, or combinations of those. The bulk of the meal is definitely meat (pork, beef, chicken or fish) and vegetables of many different varieties. Unlike “Americanized” Asian restaurants, where the food is often mostly rice, the rice there is not a big part of the meal, and there are some dishes, like nabemono (a one-pot dish, similar to a western stew, but with a much lighter broth) that is essentially just meat and/or vegetables and broth.

  102. This was a fascinating post. It’s not actually totally true that Asians eat a lot of white rice and stay slim. I have a good friend and former coworker who found himself 25 lbs too heavy. How did is lose it? He cut his rice consumption in half.

    I have also noticed the tendency for older Asians to walk around a lot more than Americans. I made a comment at work recently that I have a couple of friends I don’t see often because they live 12 miles away (near where I work) and I drive out there 5x a week already. He said that I was SPOILED by living where I do because 12 miles is not far.

    I think he’s spoiled by cheap gas and cheap cars. I’d rather walk on the weekends.

  103. Well, I wanted to address one thing: Japanese diet is not heavy on gluten, but the gluten is absolutely omnipresent: about all of the soy sauces are fermented with wheat, and they eat wheat noodles along with ramen, which is a very popular dish, or added to different hotpots. The wheat noodle thing might be relatively new, along with breadcrumb coating for frying, but how about soy sauce? They add it to everything and I for one read about a celiac girl who traveled to Japan and ended cooking everything on her own, because it was downright impossible for her to get any gluten free options dining out. And it was a big city, Osaka as I recall.

  104. I lived in Korea for 3 years and traveled significantly around Asia during that time. Everything you mentioned is true, but I think you are missing a huge reason as to why they eat so much rice and are not overweight…they eat the same foods EVERY meal. My husband is Korean and he doesn’t get excited about foods the way I do because he was brought up to eat food as fuel. You don’t need to over eat when you know you will eat something very similar for your next meal. With that said…especially the Koreans…I anticipate they will be facing huge obesity amounts in 5-10yrs due to their obsession with donuts, coffee, and pastries.

  105. Until recently, the total amount of carbohydrates Japanese ate was lower than other developed nations. Rice accounts for almost all of it and the sugar and fruit content was much lower.

    Traveling in Japan I only saw fat or very athletic Japanese eat seconds of rice. The portions were much smaller.

    Meat and vegetables are staples with vegetables both cooked and fermented. Fish used to be delivered to homes DAILY just like we used to get milk deliveries. Seafood was served twice at every meal and in traditional inns that is how they fed us for breakfast and dinner.

  106. i lived for 7 years in thailand, where people eat tons of rice: white jasmine rice, sticky rice, a few varieties of rice noodles, bean thread noodles, and egg noodles made with flour. they also consume tons of sugar. they’re mostly slim. nearly everyone i knew exercised infrequently–aside from those who worked outside. most people get around in cars and on motorbikes.

  107. your observations are, by & large, accurate. activity burns calories, including those contained in carbs. we have fatties in asia too – and the numbers are growing – with rising affluence and the “westernized lifestyle”. basically, the traditional diet remains similar in make-up & quantity, but the overall activity has dropped. obesity among children continues to grow, and in certain higher developed nations such as ours (singapore), it has become a major problem. of course, the popularity of the western fast-foods doesn’t really help either!
    in a way, historically, most cultures & countries have experienced similar trends. look at major western countries, including the u.s.; your fore-bears used to live on diets of high saturated fats, carbs (wheat & potatoes, etc.)in copious amounts and yet remained relatively ‘slim’. i’d imagine, due to the higher level of daily “necessary” activity, the burn factor was a lot more intense. that active lifestyle also established better metabolic efficiency.
    seems crucial that the level of activity needs to be increased in most modern societies – asia included. regular, relatively intense exercise must become a way of the modern lifestyle. practicing moderation in food consumption would certainly help as well.

  108. Would be interesting to pull some stats for Northern China, where wheat (often in the form of steamed buns), is consumed more than rice, and the people still seem quite healthy (and octogenarians seem more plentiful than in suburban America). Do they suffer more health problems than their rice consuming southern cousins? Could shed additional light on the wheat versus rice issue raised in this article.

  109. Traditionally Asian cultures eat a lot less sugar and therefore are less sensitive to more complex carbs. As sugar content(sucrose/HFCS)increases, which is happening in those cultures, insulin levels become significantly elevated and people become insulin resistant.Once that happens then all carbs become a problem. It is often a 2 step process. Cheers, Mike Carville

  110. Thank you for this Great Article!

    Its actuallywhat Harley Johnton says. IF you eat animals eat high carb like the ASIAN or the Kenya Runners.

    I work in ASIAN store and i see all this ASIAN people shopping. Im woried cause all the food we sell is full with processed food nowdays. There is lttle left from the traditional recipies.

    Still i love ASIAN culture and it is very divers. Still a lot are very slim. I once heard a young asian mentioning sh has tooth issue. I often talk on the staff on fishhead soup or traditional foods. Farmed shrimps or pangasius and talipa. and how people try to be cheap. Its sadly our lifestyle what makes them eating their traditional foods in this worse quality. im sure they would choose for best quality if it wouldnt be that differnc in the prices. Through some food issues. Chicken soysprouts and TOFU is organic now. ITs like it is the scnadals change as much. at least in germany.

    What ialso notice at ASAIN culture. when i was at their new year celebration and im just learing a chinese instrument. people are highly motivated ot do something and they are living thir life. having relationships. are simple osmehow. And they doing something educational. they arealso spiritual and mental active. nad they are comon to hang around. if you ar together a lot. you know that you better be slim. imagine if you are a lot people and you meat together you better fit there if you are slim. Rather than lot of obese people.

    Sadly th WAPF foundation eat too much fats and promotes a lot of bias things on soy and asian culture.

    My question i have is i have today discovered brown glutinous rice from thailand. there is also black glutnous rice.

    Somehow it is traditional. maybe if it is cooked with vegetbales and meat and good fats it is balanceing with the phytates?!

  111. Normally I am a fan of this blog but this time — utter fiction and nonesense, and patently erroneous on so many levels.

    I’m living in Beijing, and have lived in 10 major Asian cities in 10 years.

    1) don’t lump all Asians and Asian culture together, not any more than you can lump all non-Asian cultures together. Chinese diet (which actually varies incredibly by region) has as much in common with Japanese diet as American diet has to do with Guatemalan or Peruvian hill tribe diets. There is almost NO similarity outside of the rice.

    2) In China they do NOT exercise. They are also seeing spiking fat rates and diseases. And for SURE their diet here is aweful, they are gaining weight, and so on. For SURE their genetics are very different than ours (I can quote the medical studies when I have time) and they metabolize a lot of things differently than non Asians. I can refer you to the UCLA medical school professor of gastrointestinal studies to confirm.

  112. I suppose Asians eat a lot of rice. I never saw it when I was there. It is a supplemental carbohydrate in the way that other grains were supplemental carbohydrates elsewhere after the agragrian society developed. But, in the U.S. wheat is often cited as more than 50% of the calories in the U.S. diet of lower economically-classed Americans. I NEVER saw any Asian eat that much rice. And, with our diet of industrial meat, sugar and other processed foods and pesticides, there are countless factors that go into us being fat as hell. That doesn’t even include the stress factor of living in our society where people are thrown under the economic bus as a pastime by elites.

    It’s a complicated topic but I do agree with you about the differing factors of wheat versus rice.

  113. From my limited experience, which include living in Chinatown – Toronto, and once living with FOB Chinese students in college, my observations were that the meals were predominantly rice based with a bit of animal organ meats sprinkled on top.

    My hypothesis was that the gluten free rice was high in glucose, but the fact that they hardly ever consumed saturated fat with it, there would be no fat in the bloodstream during the insulin spike to store into adipose tissue.

    My low Saturated fat hypothesis was strengthened by the seemingly low BMI’s, but also the low muscle mass, generally short bodies, poor teeth, etc. (no offence meant)

    So in my current belief, regardless of glucose intake, one does not get ‘fat’ without dietary fats included. Is this not the case?

    PS, I much prefer the high fat, low carb approach. Much healthier than ‘being skinny’

  114. On my observation of rice consumption in Japan: Rice is typically served at the end of the meal, when one is likely to eat less. I could never finish my portion.

  115. I’m commenting on the “fattness” of carbohydrates. With a short term perspective.

    I am a long time low carb eater, because when I decided to get “unfat” the combination of Atkins diet and lots of bicycle camping took me from 245 lbs on a 5′ 6″ frame down to 175 obs in five months – and I am currently, seven years later, at 168 lbs.

    So, I have previously been enamored with the carbs are fattening.

    I backpack again, starting 5 years ago then at age 68 and did 400 miles of the Appalachian Trail my first attempt, and first hike in over 25 years.

    I didn’t want to try making months worth of low carb food to send to myself C/O General Delivery at trail towns. So I opted for convenient easy to prepare foods which are easily gotten in grocery stores, even the small ones in small trail towns, … and these happen to be starchy carb heavy. Pasta, potatoes, rice with flavoing goodies added (along with olive oil, sometimes cheese, ….)constituted my high carbohydrate 3,500 Calories per day diet. This is up from nearly 2,000 Calories per day when being a flatland non-backpacker.

    I was on that diet 90 some odd days, and never gained a pound. I often would lose a couple of pounds and eat like the proverbial hog whenever we found an AYCE (All You Can Eat) place for meals in our town stopovers. In every town we packed in all the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream that we could eat.

    The lesson was that if you can manage to do enough calorie burning from muscle action, then the “Fattening Power” of carbohydrates is not evident.

    Therefore, along with the expressed views of many others on the importance of activity, you can’t discuss the fattening power of food in the absence of activity.

    So, I no longer brand carbohydrates as fattening foods all by themselves. I still eat pretty low carbohydrate, but am considering taking a trial at Paleo type eating.

    I wish I could find some nice convenient food repacking lists of how to do a month long backpack on a paleo diet by buying easy to prepare foods in a small grocery store, or how to easily prepare paleo foods for pickup at remote post offices for a month or two long backpacking trip.

    That would hasten my intent to convert to a Paleo eating style.

  116. Genetics,i read where white Jasmine rice is like 100 on the GI scale.My wife eats rice everyday,and i dont eat it at all,its just like eating sugar to me.She is asian,im not.My wife did grow up with veggies and fresh seafood every day.

  117. Being asian and currently living in asia, i can safely say that many asians have the skinny-fat syndrome (look skinny but have a high body fat percentage). Many people here aren’t as fit as they appear =)

    But what works in our favour is the smaller portion size. Most meal portions are much smaller than American portion sizes. Less food = less calories = less weight gain.

    Also traditionally, many people do not consume dessert or their dessert is something mildly sweet. Many do not like overly sweet desserts.

    And what Mark said about the walking is true. I’m currently living in China. Many people, especially older ones think that joining a gym is absurd. Why pay for gym fees when you can walk around the park/walk to the subway for free? It is a form of transport and you save money.

    1. “Being asian and currently living in asia, i can safely say that many asians have the skinny-fat syndrome (look skinny but have a high body fat percentage). Many people here aren’t as fit as they appear =)”

      I go to a gym and I see this all the time in the locker rooms. Skinny *looking* with clothes on, fat when they are off.

  118. The thing that stood out for me in the Asian grocery store was the snacks, whole squid, little fish (with eyeballs that fall out, which is why it’s going to be forever and a day before I try them even if they are crispy and yummy), strips of flavored seaweed.

    Of course not all Asians eat those things, and even the people who eat those things don’t necessarily eat only those types of snacks, it was just interesting that anything so healthy would be a treat like a potato chip.

    The other thing to consider when comparing BMIs with Asian countries is that Japan and Korea at least have high rates of anorexia.

  119. good article, my wife is Thai, meat consumption is low in Thailand, id say 5 to 10% of diet and this would be the general consensus amongst the poor in Thailand. Id agree with the article in that my wife has made very little changes to her diet since she moved to Ireland but she is much less active and her weight goes up and up as a result. I’m blaming the white rice and lashings of oil in the stir fries.

  120. I am saddened to read through these comments. Do people of French nationality deserve this pointless negativity. What does this help? It is negative nonsense. Methinks the author is being controversial in order to get more traffic, otherwise he is just an idiot. SO disappointed.

  121. Having lived in northern (non-metro) Japan for a while, I can confirm many things in this article and add a few more comments. Lots of walking and daily activities; the children have almost mandatory activities such as tennis, baseball, etc; the home is for relaxing, and not much else — people go out all the time, they’re so active; grocery shopping is almost a daily activity, their kitchens are small, produce is so fresh; food is more expensive here in Japan (e.g., $6 for a small 12oz bottle of ketchup); food quality and presentation is very important — this a country of discerning foodies, they love food but good food; even at fast food places portions are small; on the topic of rice, it is often a side dish — pure white rice almost never accented with much else; Farmers Markets? What are those? The whole country is practically a Farmers Market!
    Also true is the invasion of western culture — fast food, video games, sweets, and baked goods. Luckily, their ovens are only big enough for broiling fish and not much else. Baked goods are predominately only found at stores and are expensive. They use sugar and not corn syrup. All their sweets are very small or served in very small portions. Fish and vegetables are plentiful and cheap; fruit is a seldom and expensive treat, and almost all their desserts incorporate fruit in it (a honey dew is often given as a gift, and bears a price tag of $20 or more per melon).
    The Japanese love being active – hiking, snowboarding, biking, etc. They work so much more hours than Americans, and when they have free time, they pack it full of activities – travel and sightseeing especially.

  122. Another factor is portion size. They just aren’t in general an excessive, greedy culture. Just enough is just enough.

  123. My guess was they have a very different body type than Europeans, Africans, South/Central Americans etc. I am mesomorph through and through. Though as a female I have great muscle mass naturally, I was also born with a sensitive to carbs.

    I have always been active, in fact, I was a fat runner. My activity level was above average, but my diet was piss poor. I ate LOTS of grains including rice.

    Different body types and metabolism, different diets?

    1. Yeah, I hear that “different body types/different diets” a lot and it makes for a great ‘reason’ to eat addictive foods. I don’t buy it and think it is only an excuse to mentally feel better about oneself. We should all try our best to eat clean, non-toxic foods that don’t mess with our hormones, period. That includes healthy fats from avocados and coconuts to yes, grass-fed meat fats. Craving will go away naturally and your genes will start to work like they are supposed to.

  124. i’m asian. i ate rice for my country. i ended up weighing 200pounds.

    i’m doing low carb! lost almost 70lbs.

    wont eat so much carbs…lesson learnt!

  125. Paleo cooking pots?

    As 8-9 year olds we used to made pots from grey seams of clay that lined our river bank. They were dry in the sun by the end of the day. I remember my Dad trying one on a fire he had going in the garden (yard). It boiled water.

  126. Thanks for this informative article. Just want to add one thing more about rice as we know it today. Rise contains a portion of cyanide. As a heavy rice consumer, this poison will in the long run affect the brain, spine and eye sight .This can be seen in the poor posture of many Asians. Back problems and poor visions are very common in Asia.

  127. Hi Mark I happen to be your publisher in France and I believe your article on rice and the Asians would be just as good if you dropped the French bashing. Most French people love America and what it stands for, and now that you have a publisher in France and an opportunity to get to know its people better, you may realize that most of them do not deserve to be depicted as “surrender monkeys”. Best Regards, Thierry

  128. “It was an unnecessary slur. There is absolutely no need for choosing such biased wording. Simpsons reference or not… it’s offensive and misrepresentative. I expect better from MDA.”

    It was an unnecessary slur. There is absolutely no need for choosing such biased wording. Simpsons reference or not… it’s offensive and misrepresentative. I expect better from MDA.

    It was an unnecessary slur. There is absolutely no need for choosing such biased wording. Simpsons reference or not… it’s offensive and misrepresentative. I expect better from MDA.”
    For all of you who said something like this ^ Read the book The Four Agreements by Ruiz and your life will be filled with less misery and needless suffering. This falls into : Dont Take Anything Personaly. Here is the rule : Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you wont be the victim of needless suffering. This book will change your life!

    Read more: https://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-asian-paradox-how-can-asians-eat-so-much-rice-and-not-gain-weight/#ixzz1lhZtq0At

  129. Hi,
    what do you say about the Jaminets’ approach that you can’t count vegetables as carb source because it takes too much energy to digest them. What do you think about that?
    Thank you very much.
    Jasmin

  130. @ Mark Sisson, I have to ask, does any in Asia eat “brown rice?” I often wander why do they eat so much WHITE Rice? Isn’t Brown Rice healthier, why do you think they would not choose that instead? Also, WHICH State in the U.S. would you think eats more white rice?

  131. I have been reading a great book – with a horrible title: “Why the Chinese don’t count calories” – in this book, the author explores “secrets from a 3,000 year old food culture”… in it, the subject of rice and noodles is extensively covered. I was inspired by some of what she wrote, and found myself compelled to try out eating some plain white rice with my food. I typically eat only meat and veggies at a meal, although I am not strictly paleo. At any rate, to my surprise… I discovered that when I added a cup or so of rice to my usual meal, I felt full longer, and found that my food digested much more easily. Having suffered from many years of digestive discomforts, I’ve learned specifically which foods offend, and which are allies of mine… lately, having added some simple rice to my usual meals of meat, veg and fats has really improved my digestion, and staying full longer has kept me from eating unnecessary calories. I still have plenty of energy and have stayed the same weight, but best of all, I feel MORE satisfied with a meal when rice is included. Just thought I’d share my two cents…..

  132. Great article – a question I have always wondered the answer too but was never sure who to ask – it will be interesting to see how the “East” evolves over the next couple of decades based on so called “progression”

    Thanks Mark – much appreciated!

  133. What’s with the trite French-bashing on an off-topic topic? The British surrendered at Yorktown, not the French. The French were supplying the Americans even before France formally entered the American War of Independence. No France, no US.

    They also provided the US with most of its weapons and supplies in WWI, even though they had a smaller economy than the US, and took 3 million+ casualties over the course of stopping a German invasion.

    How would you like it if every time the US was mentioned, non-Americans said, “Oh yes, the people who lost in Vietnam”?

  134. One thing I never see mentioned is the practice of “washing’ the rice. My father was stationed in Japan in the late 60’s and was taught by a local friend to rinse and rinse and rinse the rice until the water was clear before cooking. Not sure of the true effect but we thought it washed some of the starch away.

  135. Great job on the post as usual,
    but could you possibly use another term than “surrender monkeys” when referring to the French? As a frenchman myself, I find the term a little…offensive.

  136. Interesting… rice was a MAJOR part of my diet before I went primal. My family is from Ecuador and eats rice almost every meal (including breakfast)!

  137. An interesting test case would be Northern China vs. Southern China. Northern Chinese are wheat eaters and don’t like rice much. Southern Chinese are rice eaters. I am interested to know if anyone studied the differences in health outcomes.

    One study I found suggest that Northerners have higher obesity rates: http://www.nature.com/oby/journal/v15/n1/full/oby2007527a.html

  138. Take a look at rice farmers in China. They are not fat at all.

    Rice farming is very hard work.

  139. Rice doesn’t make you fat, excessive calories does. Plain and simple. I don’t know a lot about the science behind carbohydrates in regards to fat storage and to be quite frank, I don’t care. I think the negative reputation of carbohydrates has been hugely blown out of proportion. I’m saying this from personal experience. I grew up in a very traditional Asian family and white rice was eaten 2-3 times a day. If i had to estimate how many grams of carbs I get in a day from rice alone, I’d say around 150. I don’t remember a day that has gone by that I did not eat at least a serving of rice. As far as physical activity goes, playing basketball on weekend was as strenuous as it got for me. Am I overweight? Not even close. None of my siblings are either.

  140. The “Asian Paradox” refers to the low rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer in Asian countries despite high rates of smoking. Your definition is different than what I was searching for. Maybe you could call yours the “Asian Obesity Rice Paradox”?

  141. The Asian paradox is interesting, and some parts are historically even more fascinating. Beyond Buddhist vegetarianis,, Certain Taoists, many of them mountain recluses,poets, sages and herbalists followed a variety of diets. the small book Immortal Sisters, by Thomas Cleary, is about the female practitioners of this lifestyle. I doubt they ate meat, although they may have eaten grubs or something if starving, but they did eat a LOT of mushrooms,tubers and leafy greens, and AVOIDED ALL GRAINS, claiming that it extended life and helped clear the mind for meditation and spiritual exercises.

    These are the same folks who invented Chinese physical therapies and the martial arts to defend against invading bad guys, so there must have been good reason for it all.)

  142. Cool coffee graphic…unfortunately, though, caffeine can cause magnesium deficiency, and it reduces appetite! I’m trying to restore my appetite and replacing coffee with chicory in the morning has helped! Though I suppose the effect varies from person to person, some don’t get affected that way by coffee.

  143. I live in Japan for 17 years, I think Mark is right, they move a lot. I would walk to the train station then from the station to work. My wife rode her bike to work every day. When we went out to drink or eat usually we rode out bikes. I think that Japanese get a lot more natural exercise.

    Also the sugar use is a lot lower. Most people I know drink ice tea with no sugar instead of soft drinks.

    My family did eat lots of rice but a lot of other very healthy food. At home we did not fry a lot or eat processed food much. This is changing in Japan. There are fast food shops everywhere and more and more people are eating bread and processed food. The obesity rate in Japan is going up but not near as fast as the US.

    I think that the traditional lifestyle in Japan naturally included two of the primal key elements, move a lot and very low sugar.

    Since moving back to the US and driving everywhere and eating out I gained 20 pounds. Hopefully getting back to a more primal way of life will help with that.

  144. in 2001, I went to the Cape Verde Islands for 45 days..staple diet? Rice. Little meat but lots of rice. I came back 20 pounds lighter. I noticed how much rice everyone ate at every sitting, but how slim everyone was. Of course, they walked everywhere as well. Long roads, steep hills. Long slow walks. Every time I run into articles in favor of what I term “third world diets,” I definitely give kudos:)

  145. Do you think it’s possible that the way Asians prepare the rice white before cooking it has anything to do with it? I lived in Okinawa, Japan for 3 years and while there, learned the proper way to prepare rice. The Japanese people soak their rice for at least an hour in a non-metallic bowl and wash the grains by rubbing them between their fingers until the rice turns pearly white. It is then drained and all the excess starch is rinsed away. It is only then is the rice suitable for cooking.

  146. Huh? You went to a park and saw Asians jogging and concluded that this is the reason why they are not obese despite high carb diet? Really? That’s it?

  147. Let’s not forget that in general, Asians eat small amounts compared to the Standard American Diet, even if they may eat rice and/or noodles a lot. Couple that with walking a lot and voila, thin people!

  148. Good article, I am slender and I was gainning weight when I left rice and was eating whole wheat bread, whole wheat cookies, etc. However, recently I changed, I stopped every consumption of bread, except casabi (no gluten) and I eat my white rice everyday (I excersise several days a week with Jillian Michaels videos)and I can say, I am not gainning weight and I am loosing it easier.

  149. You can’t eat too much carbs, you just pee themn out. The problem arises when you eat too much fat.

    I eat loads of rice and I’m not fat or asian lol. I just cut the fat out.

    Read the china study it’s great.

  150. I am asian 5’2 size 0/2 and I eat a lot of rice 2mugs of rice/meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) thats about 6-8 mugs of rice/day which normal for us asians. Rice is the main dish, everything else is just a sider!
    but we also eat a lot of fruits as opposed to chocolates or ice cream or puddings. We prefer water or fruit juice as opposed to coca cola or coffee. we are not a “bread” or “potato” lovers. Sandwich is not something we prefer to eat. Not too many asians eat sandwiches. In Asia, specially southeast, everything is served with rice. We cannot live without rice.

    The only fat asians you see are the ones you see at mcdonalds, KFC, starbucks etc…

    So stop eating junk =)

  151. My wife is Japanese, and I have visited her family several times (Kagoshima- Southern part of Japan), as well as made several trips there while in the Navy. The Japanese DO eat rice with complete ferocity. An interesting note, however, is that traditional Japanese wisdom shared with me by my Japanese mother in-law is that a reduction in the amount of daily rice intake is how a Japanese person used to lose weight. They figured the correlation of high rice intake to bigger guts a long time ago.

    Now-a-days, this wisdom is lost in the fight to reduce sugar intake (found in abundance within the beverage machines located on every corner in the whole country). My mother in-law did leave me with one piece of marvelous advice, this after visiting her mother who is 102 yrs old. The advice was to eat what you want, the healthy stuff first, and be sure to include at least 30 (yes thirty) different whole foods into your diet every day. I found out this was significantly harder than it sounded. By whole foods, she was referring to veggies, fruits, and meats.

  152. I eat primal + white rice for every meal, and in my rice I always mix 1 tsp of butter for flavour. An interesting thing happens however if I don’t put the butter in, I become ravenous within a few hours and have an almost uncontrollable desire to eat sweets. I started to remove the butter in an attempt to lower my fat intake, but I don’t that now.

    By eating this way, I have watched a very slow but progressive loss of weight. I estimate about 200g of weight loss per week. If I add a bit of rye bread the loss is much slower but it does go (3 thin slices per day, and this particular bread is 100% organic, stone ground etc … you could call it primal bread)

    An interesting thing happened when I added instead, normal white bread however. My weight loss stalled, and after a week I began to gain the weight again.

    I’m back to primal + rice and I feel awesome again, and I’m back to slowly losing the weight.

    Roxie

  153. Thank you a bunch for sharing this with all people you really recognise what you’re speaking approximately! Bookmarked. Please also talk over with my site =). We will have a link change contract among us

  154. Simple!!! Excess calories make u fat. Carbs, protein, or fats. Doesn’t matter! Excess calories are the only thing that matter. In the Philippines I know people who only eat fast food but stay thing because they have low total calorie intakes. Calories are KING!!

  155. Brown rice is pricier because they grow bugs faster, just like white flour stores for longer.

    I am Thai. People don’t really eat that much rice (or food for that fact), especially ones that live in the city. There’s still the negative cultural connotation of gluttony flying around. The ones outside of the city that do labor works do eat a lot.

    We get more diabetes and lifestyle related diseases because we move less, foods became easier to get, and the exercise sciences/exercise professionals are not as prevalent (haven’t caught up) with all the junks in the diet. Maybe the higher fat in the body also correlates with the fact that we do more endurance work in general.

    And it’s true that an average Asian grocery cart is way better than an average non-Asian. My cultural background makes me think sandwiches, mac & cheese and boxed stuff are depressing. I would much rather have a steamed fish and rice any day. lol.

  156. Honestly, I’d contend that they actually don’t eat all that much more grain than we do in the US. As near as I can tell (according to my data, though I’d like to do a little more research before saying this conclusively or citing sources), people in the US consume 300g or so of grains per day on average. Compare that to China’s 250g or so of rice (admittedly, this doesn’t include other grains, but rice is to China as wheat is to the US, so I doubt it would rise over 300g).

  157. i have seen and lived in developed asian countries and still dont see obesity.
    Even with cars asians are more active.

  158. How about embryo rice?

    Do you have any figure abt enmbryo rice ?
    Asian starting to eat embryo rice.

  159. I was just wondering if all that rice is eaten with alot of oils, meat veggies, it has been shown that adding fat, veggies (fiber) and meat lowers the gi of the rice, which translates it into a low carb food,simply because it is not low carb in the stomach but low carb in the blood stream trickles in a little at a time avoiding glycation, depletion of nutrients in handling it, and oh yea forgot, they get more unprotected sun exposure, vitd and other fat soluable vitamins have been show to reduce the need for body fat, body fat is a storage not just caloires but cholesterol and vitamins and calcium that you need when you run short so much, it is a protection from times you don’t eat enough cholesterol sulfer, fat soluable vita/min and get enough unprotected sun exposure. I have been following a low carb (75 percent plant based) I just love my milk to much to not drink at least a glass a day, and a little meat, and of course I can’t avoid using egges in my low carb meals/desserts I make. eggs have choline, vita a, sulfer, cholesterol, omega 3, so I won’t stop eating them, my caloiric load seems to flutate daily as some days I am more hungry then others, and yes I am losing weight, can’t believe it but I am. I do not set a caloire maximum, just a caloiric minimum. following now for two months, and my energy is going up, I have a spring in my step, my ankles don’t hurt anymore when I walk/jog, or on my feet for long periods, my clothes are looser and cravings for junky foods gone, I don’t limite fruits, or veggies or even beans, I just make sure to fill up alot on coconut oil or real butter and some meat in my meals too, that way the amount of carb is controlled not rushing into my blood stream.

  160. I don’t believe that anyone has mentioned the disparity in intestine length between Japanese and Europeans. Here is a quote from an interesting essay about the topic. He mentions that intestinal length is variable, and that people with meat-based diets tend to have shorter, stiffer intestines than people with plant-based diets:

    “Consulting a German anatomy textbook, Dr. Scheube learned that intestines in Europeans were typically between 800 and 900 centimeters long. To test his ‘surmise,’ he gathered measurements on the intestines of 26 Japanese corpses aged between 17 and 60 from a Japanese hospital. Of the combined data set, he wrote, ‘The 26 cases give a length of intestine of 953.7 cm. The maximum was 1203, the minimum 667; only 3 times the intestine was below 800…Accordingly, even the absolute length of the intestine is greater in the Japanese than in the European.’

    The difference was even more pronounced when Dr. Scheube accounted for the fact that Europeans were, on average, 11 centimeters taller than Japanese people. Relative to body length, he found that Japanese intestines were 20 percent longer. He cautioned, however, that 26 intestines were not a lot to go on.”

    http://www.biguglyreview.com/body/nonfiction_andy_raskin.html

  161. hurrah , we have finally established the reason rice is and has been dominating food in numerous Asian countries. Thank you *nods in appreciation*

  162. I love Asians, and their cultures. I’m going to the Philippines later this year to see my sweetheart, and I was interested about why they use rice in all their dishes. Regardless; thank you for this article.

  163. Excellent Article Sir !!
    Very well Researched .
    I being an Asian, I agree with all your points.
    You are very correct when you said –
    ” Healthy, long-lived Asia isn’t so healthy and long-lived. Both China and India are facing diabetes epidemics ”

    Being an Indian at-least I am very sure, you can believe me that Indians due to their gluten-Based diets, Have a small and unhealthy Life Span.
    On average an Indian above 50-60 is suffering some or other Medical ailments.. usually diabetes,Cardiac Arrests. !!

  164. It’s not really some big paradox.

    Here is Seoul people basically don’t eat sugar, the end.

    Desert isn’t served in most Korean establishments. If you do get desert it will be a few slices of watermelon. The most sugar you might ever get is a tiny cup of pear juice. Koreans don’t have sugar loaded in all their beverages like Americans, you go into 7-11 here and grab a barley tea, and it’s zero sugar. Koreans find super-sugary taste undesirable and think Americans must be insane eating super-sugary double chocolate fudge cake’s of doom. Cake here is very plain, only a hint of sweetness.

    Similarly nobody eats bread here. No pasta. Even if you goto pizza it’s going to be VERY thin crust.

    The result is these people haven’t insulin-shocked themselves into oblivion the way Americans have.

    So yes, they can eat a small bowl of white rice, which is served as a side dish, and not get fat.

  165. White rice (polished) nowadays is main culprit for some asians like me who cannot lose weight. It lose all the fiber + nutrient same like wheat.

  166. Hi Laura
    re your comment “I live in France and while the French may have lower levels of heart disease, they have a LOT of liver problems! I’m pretty convinced that the “French Paradox” is due to the duck fat.”
    I am very interested in this.
    Do you think that the liver problems are caused by duck fat? Or do you mean that the reduced heart disease is due to duck fat? If so, what do you think is causing the liver problems? Thanks 🙂

  167. I am Malaysian, 5’7 , 53 kgs with 14% body fat. I eat white rice 3-4 times a day everyday but the things we eat with are really really beneficial for health and are mostly organic because we grow them in our backyards. A typical Malay meal everyday is white rice, variety of dishes made from all sorts of flavourful ingredients, fish,meat or chicken and the most important side dish of all, raw vegetables such as parkia speciosa, archidendron pauciflorum,pennywort leaves,winged bean,asiatica pennywort and more. Please check out the health benefits of these herbs. They are mostly bitter and tastes really bad if eaten alone, we normally eat them with rice and other dishes.

    My grandmother is 82 and so healthy and active, she eats rice and these herbs everyday too. A lot of Malays in Malysia are diabetic but I dont think its from the food we consume but the drinks, we are notorious for drinking exceptionally sweet drinks e.g rose syrup+4-5 spoons of sugar. But other than that Im pretty sure the food we eat are mostly healthy, maybe that is why we don’t really have to alter our diets when we exercise to lose weight. I know I don’t and my body is the same as people who eat clean to get their dream bodies. Most of my friends and family too. Maybe its genetic or maybe our system is just used to rice. Im not sure. But just to let you guys know, this is what we normally eat.

  168. As I have shifted to a paleo style pescatarian I have noticed that I can work out much less with better overall health. My blood sugar is much more stable and brain function dramatically improved. As soon as I attempt to blend in to any of the standard American components of lifestyle I fall on my face. I have concluded that for long term health and well being I have to permanently lived my new lifestyle. Removing all stressors like action movies, intense music, driving fast, relationship conflicts, etc. Obviously I have to make room for exceptions to the rule sometimes. I suppose that is the most important concept of the pale lifestyle. Relaxation and low stress is the rule until brief moments of fight or flight stressors tax our being. The standard american lifestyle is the opposite. So really diet is not the only factor to consider. Stressors cause far more weight gain than people reailjze. Just go into any gym and watch people pushing themselves every day in a viscous cycle of catabolic dreadmilling.

  169. I’m an American who has been living in Japan for 10 years now. I come across this website occasionally, and I respect the intelligence that goes into many of its articles. Mark is clearly not a dummy when it comes to the science behind his ideas, and he’s also not an ideologue. It’s a rare combination.

    But . . . I see a lack of understanding here regarding whole grains, especially rice, and I see it as a particularly American/Western bias.

    I’m all for science. But you’ve got to understand, our understanding of nutrition now is still very primitive. The human body is very complex, and essentially the only broad consensuses in the nutrition field are the minimum requirements for life (vitamins, minerals, etc.) and the fact that weight is related to the amount of calories consumed. Beyond that, and you’ll find disagreement regarding almost every aspect of nutrition.

    This doesn’t mean that scientific studies should be ignored. But it does mean that when these studies seem to conflict with the reality of millions of people, it’s the studies that should be questioned, not the people.

    And the reality is this: the Japanese are, in general, the healthiest, longest-lived large population in the world. Yes, things are getting worse in Japan as Western food starts to take hold. But, as of 2013, the least healthy prefecture in Japan is still far healthier than the healthiest state in America, in terns of longevity, CHD, cancer, and stroke. And this is despite the fact that over 50% of women and over 60% of men are smokers.

    Is it due to a higher activity level? Well, it’s true that the Japanese tend to walk a bit more than the average American. People here generally rely on public transportation, so they walk to the subway station or bus stop. But it’s no different than Manhattan, where I used to live. And believe me, there are a lot more fatties in Manhattan than there are here. And besides, exercise here is almost unheard of. The gyms don’t even open until 10am, because they cater mostly to housewives and retired people who want to relax in the public baths before they get a massage. The cardio equipment is an afterthought. And the free weights are practically never touched.

    Is it genetics? Well, no. If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, you’ll notice that most of the 3rd and 4th generation Japanese living there are just as fat as everyone else. These are 100% pure Japanese, descended from people who came to Hawaii from Japan around 1900. And they’re eating a typical Hawaiian diet, which is probably a little less healthy than the typical mainland American diet, if you can believe it.

    So what’s the difference? Rice. You can’t ignore it, can’t explain it away. Most Japanese get anywhere from 1/2 to 3/4 of their daily calories from rice. And not the “healthy” brown rice either. It’s all white rice – supposedly the antithesis of healthy eating according to a Paleo or Atkins viewpoint. And the fact is, the ones who rely the most on rice, who get the highest percentage of their calories from rice – these are the skinniest, healthiest people around. These are the ones who live into their 90’s and beyond. They almost never have heart attacks or strokes. And the only cancers they have to worry about are lung cancer (from smoking), and the various cancers related to salt intake (like stomach cancer).

    The fact is, when a society is eating that much rice, and living longer and healthier than almost every other population in the world, the question isn’t, “What are the Japanese doing to mitigate the negative effects of rice?” Instead, the real question is, “How exactly is rice making them so healthy?”

    I have my theories. One thing I’ve noticed is that the Japanese consume far fewer calories than us Americans. If you’ve ever read Seth Roberts’ “The Shangri-La Diet” (vapid title, but not a stupid book), you’ll know about how the brain forms flavor-calorie associations in a sort of Pavlovian way. Essentially, consuming higher-calorie, bland food causes you to get full faster. You can test this concept yourself by mixing 500 kcal of sugar with 1 or 2 liters of water, and then sipping it over the course of an hour or two. Is it healthy? Of course not. But it will kill your appetite for the rest of the day. People attempting Ghandi-like 30-day fasts often sip sugar water for the same reason. Hospital IVs also operate under the same principle – lots of calories with no taste. When’s the last time you saw someone who got fat from an IV?

    So I think that reduced appetite from consuming so much rice plays a part, but clearly there’s more going on. It could be that rice simply has very little of a negative impact on the body, as compared to most other foods. Who knows?

    Now, there are may roads to health. The Eskimos got along fine eating mostly seal and fish. The Papua New Guinea highlanders lived long lives getting 90% of their calories from sweet potatoes. So if Paleo or Atkins or whatever is working for you, that’s great. But don’t knock rice, man. I’ve got over 100 million people who can back me up on this.

  170. I’ve only come across your article recently, as I’ve been doing research (for myself) with regards to the pros and cons of consuming grains (especially rice).

    I am South African but I have been staying in Malaysia for over 2 and a half years, and, basing my theory (yes, it’s just a theory) on what I know about the Chinese, Malay and Indian populations in this country, Asians (or, at least those that live in Malaysia) are not as healthy as people tend to think.

    I am referring specifically to Malaysians of Chinese descent as they include grains in every meal (whether it be rice or wheat in the form of noodles) and remain thin.

    Being thin, as we all know, does not necessarily indicate good health. It’s possible that the genetic makeup of Chinese (and other Asian groups) is such that their bodies remain slim and petite through their lifetimes. It’s possible that there are many other factors or reasons for their slim frames. But I have encountered countless “thin” Chinese individuals who are suffering from high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and, usually, have several joint problems (usually the knees and the elbows). These individuals range from 40s all the way to 80s.

    My husband also works as a doctor at a busy, local hospital and the majority of patients above 40 years old either have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis or have suffered a stroke or heart attack.

    There may or may not be a link between diet or high grain consumption and all of these ailments but I do feel that there may not necessarily be a paradox.
    Asians may be thin, but may not be very healthy in many aspects.
    It’s possible that Asians may have been the epitome of good health decades ago and centuries ago whilst having grains form a large part of their diet, but things have changed and many foods are not as natural or beneficial as they used to be.

  171. I moved to South Korea 2 years ago and was quite surprised at all the fat children and adolescents. Then I saw all of the fast food, carby, fake foods being sold right outside the schools and major bus stops. I have also been told by Korean friends that they see it too and it’s become a national concern. Sadly, in the same conversation they speak about how fat is bad and government regulation of high calorie foods might be the answer.

  172. Yes, extremely bad judgement is becoming a trend on this blog. Mark is cruisin’ for a bruisin’ as they say- something that will escape just tsk tsk’in in the comments and seriously damage his reputation.

    As others have said- it’s about quantity. I recently spent time in Beijing, not exactly the center of traditional healthy eating, and people just eat a lot less. When rice is included in a meal, it seems like an afterthought (and you have to order it specially- it doesn’t just come with your meal) compared to the couple of cups you will get in a US restaurant.

  173. Busted out laughing several times in just the first paragraph. Thanks for another great and informative post.

  174. Shenzhen and Hong Kong are separated by a couple of tube stops and a hundred plus years of influence.

    If you look at the average diets today (simply count the Starbucks, McDonalds etc) in both you will see Eastern and Western side by side and Chinese folks who look totally different as a population.

    Go to Shenzhen and you can count the fat Chinese you see in a week on the fingers of one hand. Go to Hong Kong (30 minutes away) and you will need an abacus to keep up.

    The evidence is in front of our faces. The experiment is being done for us in Southern China. We simply need to open our eyes and see.

  175. Great article Mark. A paradox only exists in a narrow mind!

    One criticism however; I’m British, so the French wind me up something fierce, but I think the “Surrender Monkeys” quip is a little unfair. And by the way prior to “The Simpsons” it was “Garlic munching” & not “Cheese eating” 😉

    Vive la difference!

  176. “Surrender monkeys” ?!?? Let’s keep it gentil,(nice) Grok, and evolve past the francophobic comments at least out of respect for our talented ancestors at Lascaux and Chauvet that you have adopted as your mascots. The primal community in France will thank you! Merci.

  177. I’m confused by a lot of the comments here that claim the traditional Asian diet was/is high in animal proteins and fats. Everything I’ve read says most Asian diets were very high in starch and vegetables, and around 10% animal products. I don’t see any citations to any studies that show any traditional Asian diets that were composed of mostly animal derived calories. Yes, most if not all Asians eat some meat and fish, but based on calories, I have yet to see any study that indicates Asian diets were meat or fish heavy. Eating a little bit of fish or meat with every meal still doesn’t mean the diet is meat heavy if the vast majority of calories were from rice, potatoes, and vegetables. The studies I’ve seen of the traditional Okinawan diet all point to a diet that was 90% plant based in terms of calories. Are there other studies that show something different?

    1. Almost all health screening in the UK at least suggests that people of Asian origin be especially diligent about diabetes, since it;s highly prevalent among people from that ethnic group. This is something to factor in when analysing Asian diets – don’t assume just because they’re not superficially similar to SAD that they’re healthy and wonderful,

      “The chance of developing type 2 diabetes is 6 times higher in South Asians than in Europeans.” Source – diabetes (dot) co (dot) uk

      They also have a higher risk of heart disease, along with Afro-Caribbeans.

      And this is interesting when talking about a body adapted to burning carbs, not fat – source BBC News and link should be available from my name below this post:

      “People of south Asian origin are more prone to Type 2 diabetes due to the way their muscles burn fat, a study finds.

      The team from Glasgow University discovered that people from the region have muscles which do not burn fat as well as Europeans.”

      I personally would not aspire to the Asian dietary model based on this.

      1. PS: What I’m getting at above is that the Asian dietary model appears to have resulted in multi-generational (i.e., heritable) epigenetic changes to the way the body handles carbs, fat, and insulin reactivity, leaving people worse off regardless of what diet they currently consume, and this is in line with the generational changes observed by Weston A Price as people introduced starch in place of animal fat. Obviously the occasional curry/chow mien won’t kill you, but we’re often bamboozled by thinking every non-western culture has some secret we lack, when in fact they don’t. Do your own research and don’t believe the hype. 🙂

    2. A few years ago I lived in a suburb where there were alot of recently-arrived Vietnamese families. I befriended one family of 7 children ranging from 2-15 years, mother and father, and grandmother. They were recently-arrived like most in the area, and like all of them in the area, were all petite, slender and very energetic.

      They only had one car which the father took to work, so the shopping was shared amongst the mother, and the children (except the youngest ones who remained with the grandmother).

      These people walked everywhere, and I never saw them on a bus (except for the school children going to school).

      They ate enormous amounts of rice every meal, however they also ate very flavoursome small side dishes consisting of fresh vegetables, fresh herbs and very small amounts of meat. However, one of the things that caught my attention (back in my cereal+milk mornings) was that their bowl of rice for breakfast also had small slivers of meat in it. The amount was probably equivalent to say 5 finger size (width and length) of cooked meat (not sure if it was pork, lamb, beef). They also caught local pidgeons (which left me stunned when I found out) and cooked those as well.

      Their cooking was always very fragrant, garlicky, and chillied, and they cooked everything in oil, including the vegetables. I learnt how to cook greens far quicker using fat, rather than steaming, and to this day it’s still my preferred method.

      I don’t know if they stayed healthy over the years. I think the eldest girl, might have grown fat later on, because she was putting on weight when I left the area. Perhaps the Australian school canteen assisted here. But the adults remained lean by the time I left.

  178. Maybe it’s because Asians don’t eat as much food period. Especially considering most of Asia was in poverty until the 1970s (and still are, today). My parents used to mention 2 bowls of rice, some vegetables and about 10g of meat per day, on average.

    Asians don’t eat much meat either. My parents couldn’t imagine eating anything more than 100g of meat for dinner. Most meats are usually cooked with larger amounts of vegies.

    Sometimes I feel like this whole primal stuff is just an excuse for Americans to justify another 200g steak!

  179. Anatomically, it has been proven that the pancreas of Asians is larger than the pancreas of Caucasians and other races. This is why Asians can eat more grains and a have a higher percentage of cooked food vs raw in their diets.

  180. Maybe it is just evolution. Some people respond negatively to foods while others don’t. To say it’s just that they’re all more active, well, how can you really prove that by just looking? This is not scientific at all.

    I’m not Asian, eat a lot of rice and noodles, but I eat it in an Asian fashion. I’m skinny, standing 5 ft 8 and 135lbs. I’ve never been overweight and people tell me I should gain.

    Thing is I don’t put a bunch of junk on it. Asians don’t use a ton of table toppings, like ketchup and butter(although you’ll see butter in soups sometimes). They eat lots of veggies and spice; spices have been scientifically proven to up and improve digestion.

    It’s just this, plain and simple: Asian diets is healthier. They way they prepare foods and the things they eat with them. Like meat is considered smelly, because meat is a special thing, not an every night thing. These guy eat lots of carbs and fresh veggies and fish. Not process junk like us. Even the restaurants are different than ours. Fresh real cooking.

    I’m not saying they don’t use bad things, like cooking oil which they use a lot. But by the time they’re done with adding the bad things, they’ve stuffed themselves with so many good things that it’s ridiculous. Also, they’re a bit more experimental. There is so much food in the world that we don’t consider, and I do mean bugs and other things. Bugs are very nutritious, if you can wrap your mind around crickets and scorpions, and etc. These are things we certainly should be eating.

  181. When there’s proof staring you in the face that you’re theory is flawed do what everyone does
    Call it a ‘paradox’

  182. Asians may remain skinny, but they become just as fat, and in a VERY bad, not-visible way due to their diet of too many carbs: their fat builds up around their internal organs. Asians are what we call “skinny-fat” They may be thin, but the average asian male has as much fat as an american WOMAN, and asian women have even more fat. Asian kids are failing physical exams (thay have those in japan and china) due to fat taking the palce of muscle, and weak connective tissues (tendons and ligaments) from not enough protein. An asian will tell you “we eat protein all day!” But the amount the eat barely adds up to the us minimum amount. That’s why asian males are girlish in figure, stunted in height, and poor in strength compared to americans of any race. Thin means nothing if the body isn’t lean enough to show definition. That means there’s high levels of bodyfat, and asians generally are thin, but soft as dough. That means weak muscles and lots of internal fat. The strongest asians, and most muscular are the koreans. They don’t sit around stuffing carbs into their faces all day. They eat vegetables like the japanese and chinese eat rice, which results in better overall health, plus vegetables don’t store up as fat, unlike carbs…and koreans eat a lot more protein than the chinese and japanese, resulting in stronger muscles, better height, and better overall strength and builds.

  183. *Asians eat less carbs than Westerners* I grew up in China, I know.

    I don’t understand why people talk about the “Asian paradox”. It’s not a “paradox”.

    All this talk about how Asians eat more rice, as if that’s the only carb food in the world. So what if they eat more rice? THEY EAT LESS CARBS

    Why don’t you talk about how Americans consume more sweet drinks than Asians, Americans eat more sweet desserts than Asians, Americans eat more wheat than Asians, etc.

    Asians don’t have a habit of drinking any drink with a meal, unless you consider soup a drink. Asians don’t have a habit of eating a lot of sweet deserts, period. Savory deserts are more popular. And Asians don’t eat a lot of rice with each meal either, unlike the huge heap of pasta Americans eat in a pasta meal, most Asians only eat a small bowl of rice with each meal, that’s not a lot.

    Stop talking about shit you don’t know people. And stop making up strange assumptions in your heads. You obviously have zero idea about how it is in Asia.

    1. If you know more, we’d all be interested. Afterall, we’re here to find out how to improve our diets 🙂

  184. It boils down to two things: genetics followed very closely by lifestyle – period.
    Every society has examples of different body types on the same diet.
    Here’s the interesting part: those that overate are always overweight.

  185. I went on an all white rice, veggie,chicken breast, tuna,and turkey diet….. lost 90lbs maybe they don’t gain because white rice has 0 fat calories

  186. Mark

    Read Ayurveda. Rice is a great thing especially basmati rice. You may search for Ayurvedic books by Dr Vasant Lad. The western approach to medicine is very superficial though largely accurate.

  187. Yes you are right.

    But my age is 32. I eat very less food still gain weight.

    I workout daily but rest for 7 days starts adding fat.

    Could u plz throw some light as it seems to be hormonal problem.

  188. Traditional Korean food is very healthy. Most people only know about korean bbq, but back then meat was expensive and common Korean folks rarely got to eat red meat. A lot of Korean food is fermented and aged. Koreans ferment soy beans and turn it into a paste and also do the same with peppers and make a pepper paste. And of course everyone knows about kimchi and there are hundreds of different types of kimchi. Most of the side dishes include vegetables and healthy soups. Koreans are big on using roots like ginseng in their foods and everything was fresh grown local foods and nothing was processed. Koreans also eat a lot of fish which is a much healthier alternative to eating red meat. Of course now life is much different. Probably everything is processed and filled with junk.

  189. War/conflict and rice? I don’t get it but coming back to the rice topic I’d like to say that after talking to a friend who originates for Okinawa Japan and researching “authentic” foods (not all Asian recipes are authentic) over the past few years I have to say I agree with a lot of what you said in your post. They mash cooked rice into Mochi and fill it with sweet red bean paste, taro paste, or yam paste for a sweet. I don’t know about you but it’s hard to find a dessert or sweet here in the USA that doesn’t contain a large amount of highly processed ingredients. Even if they are made at home!
    I won’t say we eat exactly like Asians do but we love the food and I try to be as authentic as possible. Chicken feet, fish heads, tongue, intestines, and things of that nature do not sound appealing to myself or family. Fish with head on is not happening either but fresh fish is a favorite. I have a pantry that would make most Japanese, Koreans, and possibly Chinese proud. And yes we eat a lot of rice and I still lost 20# when we transitioned to this way of eating.
    As for walking it is easy over there since they have amenities near them. Most don’t walk 7 miles one way to the supermarket for food supplies like I would have to. Even the foods in the convenience stores can be healthier since most stock Bentos instead of salt laden TV dinners. Even the instant noodles over there have more healthy ingredients that those sold over here.
    My point is the USA is a “car” society and Asian is a walk, bike, public transportation society. We only find that when we live or visit large cities like New York, Boston, Dallas, etc. But when I was staying in Brooklyn there were corner markets that sold fresh produce along with chips, beer, cigarettes and all the other stuff. Walk a couple blocks and you had fresh ingredients for supper! Most of us don’t have that option and need to make walking part of our routine for the sake of increasing or maintaining our health.

  190. Having lived in Thailand for 8.5 years in the late 90’s to early noughties I could see an increase in wheat, dairy and procesed products into the ‘traditional’ Thai diet of rice, vegies, a little meat and fruit.

  191. I start going paleo when I was 108 kg. first week I lost 7k. Other week 2-3 and it goes slower and slower in time. After like 6-7 months , I was 88 kg and not loosing anymore , or very slowly. Then , I go to Asia.

    I was in Southeast Asia for the last 8 months. Still going paleo but all new foods makes me curious so I was trying local foods , with rice or local deserts (not so much but , still). And like in 3-5 months I go down to 76 kg (also lost lots of muscle surprised me a lot)

    During Asia , I realized there’s always little bit of heat in my body. First I thought its because of the hot weather , but even in the cold days I felt it. And I noticed , I’m not healing quickly(bruises , cuts) I’m a really quick healer and my healing speed slowed maybe 10 times.

    And from lots of people , I heard(and observed) , it’s dirty in Asia , so there’s much more bacterias and stuff.

    Sooo , connecting all , I start to believe , by immune system is running sooo hard to get rid of all that new and so much bacteria , and that makes heat in my body. And because my immune system is always dealing with that , I’m not recovering quickly.
    So final conclusion , maybe rice gives extra boost to the immune system for dealing with all that.

    And it grows naturally there , and it’s so much in the diet(I believe the diets of nations are connected with geographical locations & lifestyles-not enough English , I hope I make the point-) , so maybe that’s natures way to keep us healthy?

    Just my theories without any scientific research or something 🙂

  192. Excellent willing analytical vision meant for details
    and may foresee troubles before they occur.

  193. With all the historical poverty, and political oppression wouldn’t the more obvious answer be relative caloric restriction (along with activity, veges and fish)?

  194. There is no French Paradox, the French eat small portions of high quality food that is why they are thin. Their neighbors to the East in Germany, eat bigger portions and are fatter but still not as big as most Americans. The French consume about 1/5th the amount of refined sugar that the average American consumes. The French love to cook with butter, but fat satiates you faster.

    Soda is very expensive in France, a small cup of Coke in a restaurant in France will set you back 5 dollars. Also the proportion of French who own cars is less, a lot French walk daily.

    Americans who do exercise, exercise too much, and this actually makes you fat. Moderate exercise with moderate eating keeps your weight in the normal range.

    Europeans live less stressful lives as well, stress plays a role in weight gain and obesity, this is another reason why the French are on average thinner.

    I met a Frenchman who moved to the US and he gained about 25 pounds. The lifestyle in America is more stressful and the quality of food is lower, while the quantity is higher.

  195. I lived in Asia for a while and culturally, people don’t eat alone, if they don’t have anyone to eat with them then they simply don’t eat. They can be starving but they still won’t go eat alone in a restaurant and even at home don’t like to eat alone, it is a sort of social stigma and social appearance is very high on the hierarchy compared to western culture where “self-actualization” is the highest. That’s why they are thin and perhaps one of the reasons why we are not. And if you try to get them to eat without white rice to go with every meal they won’t eat either. They don’t eat meals without white rice and/or noodle soup.

  196. I’m Korean, and I have eaten (mostly) white rice up until I started the Primal Blueprint, and I have no problems eating it. While I do reserve rice as the occasional treat, as long as I portion control, I feel fine. That said, the food I eat is sort of a hybrid between Primal and traditional Korean. Traditional Korean food (and the rest of Asia for that matter) is indeed very nutritious and healthy. However, you have to keep in mind that the healthiest foods can be contaminated with bad stuff like gums, sugar, wheat, soy lecithin, etc. I was horrified to learn that the fermented bean paste I use had wheat, processed soy, and other unhealthy additives, sweeteners, colorings, and preservatives. So I’ve had no choice but to cut some of Korean food from my diet which is sad, but necessary. There aren’t farms where I live where they make traditional Korean food. (Pepper paste and bean paste are extremely hard to make, and much time, effort, and space is required; not to mention good ingredients.) It’s sad that very healthy and nutritious diets all over the world are slowly decreasing and being replaced by the SAD diet. 🙁

  197. Yes!!! Historically and globally shows us that asian loves their rice, and before we speculate on to much theories we must take into account that ‘Thought is the product of behaviours, and results is the outcome of the reoccurring behaviours” So let’s just simply ask that question “What were they thinking?!!”
    AsianWeightLoss.com

  198. You took away the wrong impression of Asian culture in SF, Mark. Why is that not a surprise? Oh, I know. Because it fits your logic. You mentioned “older” Asians taking their time, riding a bike, walking slow. I would think most older folks, Asian or not, would do the same. Golden Gate Park? Seriously? You didn’t even hit Chinatown or Japantown? Don’t you think you’d have a better understanding of Asian culture if you went to, I don’t know, the Asian areas of the city??? Next trip, try going there. You’ll see the hustle and bustle. The knocking you out of their way as they hurriedly try to pass you (on foot!). Ah, but that’s just an aside. What about the fact that Asians are different. Caucasians are different. African Americans…We have different ways of processing food because we are different. The intestines are even different sizes. Aisans’ intestines are shorter than Caucasian. We get different diseases. We are ethnically different. You don’t think things like that make a difference? Finally, just another point to prove that grains have no bearing on fat, skinny, god forbid tolerance, etc.–JUNK FOOD, restaurants, creamer in coffee, all of it. And I mean anything your mom, your grandmom or you didn’t make in. the. kitchen. When will folks finally realize that it ruined their insides and they may be stuck with your diet now.

  199. I am wondering: Would Asians perhaps be even healthier than they actually are when ditching the rice or replacing it by sweet patatoes?

  200. The French do not have the same level of obesity as Americans is because of the variety and portion sizes. All you can eat buffets are very rare in France. I visited the country several times and noticed that they eat a variety of food in small portions at a meal, meals have several different courses. A good number of them cannot afford cars so they either ride bikes or take public transportation which involves walking. Finding healthy food in a French supermarket is actually quite easy despite me not speaking one word of the language.
    That being said the French are getting bigger themselves, they are not rake thin as most would believe but on average are 4 BMI points smaller than the average American.
    Israelis having a high rate of heart disease? Well could it have to due with tense political situation over there? I would be serious money that could be an issue, life in Israel is not a picnic, imagine living in a place where at any moment you could be in a life and death situation. America has violence of course, but not like Israel, which constantly faces attacks.
    Asian diets seem to be healthy to a degree and Western lifestyles are very toxic to Asian people.

  201. Interesting theory. However, i notice that most asians of all ages in america are thin, despite eating provably the same junk food other americans eat. I am asian and i eat more junk food than healthy food, and most of it isnt of asian cuisine. I am mostly sedentary like most other americans, yet i am not overweight. I think an experiment should be done feeding people of different races the same junk food and force them to sit at their computers all their waking days for a month, and then compare everyone’s weight gain at the end. My guess is the asians will still be thin. The reason is its just a metabolism issue.

  202. I thought the Asian paradox is all about miraculous vit K2! Mark talked about natto already. Asians traditionally eat fermented foods and specifically soybeans. So they may not even know that they eat vit K2. The rest of the (conscious) world has to do with supplements of K2 MK7.

  203. I think you left off the most important factor of all.

    They all use chop sticks! We just scoop and stuff!

  204. I am Asian. we eat rice everyday. and no, it’s not a side dish. it is our main dish, we compliment it with veges, fish, chicken, meat etc

  205. The most interesting paradox is how a site like this one that puts out so much misinformation has so many followers…

    Yes, finally at the end of the article the author mentioned a true fact, the whole world, including Asia, is getting heavier and sicker.

    Rice is not the least offensive grain, white rice is processed and is not what primarily led to long-lived populations of Asia. The longest living population in Asia is in Okinawa which consumed large daily amounts of their calories from Okinawa Sweet Potatoes (Yams), very little rice and animal protein.

    It has been my personal observation for the last fifteen years that as Asian populations increase in personal wealth they become heavier and sicker while they increase their consumption of white rice, sugar, meat and oils.

  206. The Israeli paradox can be explained by the whackish amount of stress the average person deals with everyday. There’s a ton of pressure put on people to exceed in work and academics. My Israeli friends also deal with a lot of stress from family as well. My mom’s Asian and has diabetes, as do my grandparents. They eat junk like it’s no one’s busines though.:/

  207. I am Caucasian. They are Asian. A different race! That’s the closest we have to a different species. Negro species gets sickle cell anemia. Why don’t Caucasians or Asians get it? Because they are a different race! Asians have different sized intestines than Caucasians. A whole different digestion going on then. Quit looking for voodoo answers for all things diet. Get over it. Americans do all thing in a big, loud, obnoxious way. We suffer the penalties of that kind of culture.

  208. 1. Rice has little nutritional value;
    2. Asians – and most people – do not eat like Americans. They don’t eat vast quantities of rice or any other food; and
    3. If you want to get fat, eat like an American

  209. Many years ago I lived in South Korea and dropped about 20 lbs there effortlessly in a year on a Korean diet, which consisted of a very huge bowl of rice at almost every meal. The rest of the meal was small portions of vegetables and meat or fish. For breakfast I got a fried egg. I also walked a lot. I didn’t run or exercise in any other way. However, I was younger then. I went to Japan a year ago and loved the food, so I ended up gaining 5 lbs in 3 weeks. Must be a change in my metabolism in my older years. 😉

  210. Old post but wanted to give my $.05 – This is something I’ve contemplated for years and still haven’t found THE answer. I know the oldest noodle discovered was in China and made from millet. Still I think it was only 4,000yo. I suspect wild rice is ‘paleo’. It requires less processing to eat than any other grain (some might say quinoa). It would be something you could pick up along the lake trail and eat with your speared fish rather easily. Not sure cooking techniques used (I’m not a gastronomical archaeologist).
    As I’ve seen mentioned on other sites, arsenic could be a problem with ‘crude’ rice consumption (and has been proposed as a cause for more white vs brown rice consumption in Asia). I’ve wondered if steaming in a leaf wouldn’t reduce arsenic but leave B vitamins in rice.
    Anyone who knows the answers to any of my speculations please post.

  211. BECAUSE THEY EAT BROWN RICE!!!! AND HERE IS a statement in google!!

    Brown rice is also good for diabetics due to its high fibre content. Here are 6 reasons why brown rice is better for you. Also, try this healthy brown rice methi pulao. It is essential to understand that white rice does have its own set of benefits and eating it or not depends on one’s body.

  212. I’m from Asia. Rice is a staple which keeps us full and is a good complement to other meat and veggie dishes.

    The number of overweight people here has increased over the years, however, due to increased consumption of junk food and less active lifestyles.

    Those of us who maintain our weight successfully simply lead more active lifestyles and move more out of habit. We’re thus able to burn off all the calories we consume. It’s the art of balancing our levels of activity with what we eat. And yes, we prefer fresh food to processed junk.

  213. In the Philippines, we eat a lot of rice on our plate. I mean I eat a whole regular plate of rice but was skinny in the Philippines. But here in America I eat less and control eating rice and am already over weight after staying in the USA for 6 years. My thinking is that because it is too hot in the Philippines which is mostly 90-95 degrees farenheit almost the year round. It is too hot rather than cold that makes my burning faster when I am there. Filipinos loose weight by visiting the Philippines even just for a month and then regain weight when returning to USA.

  214. Hmm… it’s almost like the amount of calories consumed versus the number of calories expended determines our weight rather than superstitious abstention from random “bad” foods

  215. A good article but somewhat inaccurate.

    Its about portion size.

    Asians eat very little food and lots and lots of bone soup. Go anywhere in Asia and you’ll see people having bone stock soup with noodles – they love it.

    Japanese portions are tiny and they do not usually have desert.
    A meal for one American could feed 2 or 3 people in Japan.

    Thai portions are at least 50% smaller than American, and with lots of fresh greens.

    Afterwards, no desert or something very small.

    (The Asian exception being Indians, who are very fat, and live on sugar and wheat).

    It may be that the lack of sugar and wheat creates people who are not over-hungry.

    It is odd to be in Japan, where you can smoke anywhere, but people live longest on the planet.

  216. Definitely Not, Asians do get fat by eating rice as I am Asian myself.
    If you’re comparing us asians to the States – having been to the States I definitely know the reasons why Americans are much larger on average, the 2 most important being :
    1.) Your portions are ridiculously huge. Your food for one is our food for two.
    2.) The food is really greasy and extremely high in sugar !

  217. Is this a joke? Why would a rice-based diet heavy on vegetables and fish make one fat? Asians are thin because, unlike most Western countries, they don’t overeat on a regular basis. There should be no mystery here. The idea that ‘carbs make you fat’ is just laughable. Carbohydrates are the basis of a healthy diet in civilisation. I’m guessing this is a site for morons who believe in various fad diet malarkey.

  218. “white rice (the favored type across most of Asia; as a Thai friend of mine who grew up there and came to Hollywood in the 60s told me, “rice bran was for the chickens”), is a mostly non-toxic source of glucose. On the grain spectrum, where wheat and other gluten grains reside at one end, rice relaxes at the opposite end. It’s not “good,” but it’s also not “bad.” It just is. It’s pretty much neutral. Whether you can handle (or need) the glucose load is another thing, but you can rest assured that white rice will be generally free of gut irritants, phytic acid, and deleterious lectins.”

    This is the most important blurb in this article. White rice isn’t bad. Its good for fuel and it lacks natural chemicals and inhibitors like other natural foods have, since the bran has been mostly removed. I will keep eating white rice.

  219. Guys, I moved to America four years ago from China. So I am pretty sure I know Asians better than most of you guys. WE DON’T JUST EAT RICE! As a matter of fact, I seriously think lots of westerners eat about the same rice as we do. I eat way more meat and veggies than rice. Our staple food can be sweat potatoes, noodles, dumplings, steamed bread, black rice, sticky rice balls, rather than rice! So I don’t get why are we talking about rice whenever we talk about Asians! We eat way, way, way more food than just rice!!! And that’s what I am talking about here. The diversity of food is the real reason why we stay skinny from the eating perspective. If you ever visited an Asian food market, you would understand. 90% of our food cannot be found in Giant, Safeway, Walmart,and Costco! Americans probably eat less than 10 types of veggies, 5 types of fish throughout their lives; we, on the other hand, has sooooooo many vegetables and fish I don’t even know the Chinese names for them! Besides the variety of food, we also thousands of dishes! I don’t even know how to name most of them myself. While Americans only have very limited: smashed potatoes, sausages, macaroni cheese, meat loaf, and bacon and eggs? Whenever I hear American food, it just sounds like a joke.

  220. You’re trying too hard. The simple truth is that rice is not an intrinsically bad food, and that the Paleo diet is a load of crock.

  221. Im a filipino. A meal without a rice isnt a real meal for us.? Rice is life ?

  222. I eat 65 – 75 pounds of brown rice a year. I’m 5’8″ and 122-135. It’s pretty simple: I eat high carb low fat diet. 80% Cal’s from carbs 10 fat, 10 protien. Vegan diet and I’m a cyclist. No I’m not Asian. Rice is 50% of my dinner 6-7 nights a week. And on the off day is usually in there in a smaller portion.

  223. i don’t see the confusion. Anyone that eats rice and veggies and lean proteins and is generally active will do better than one who lives off fried foods, preservatives, and sitting down most of the day.
    A traditional meal in japan is fish and rice and a traditional meal here is a cheeseburger and fries. I think i can figure out how they are generally healthier. If they start getting more downtime and more McDonald’s, they will end up with the same problems we have. Americans who eat in a similarly Asian way (rice, veggies, lean proteins) and stay active probably won’t battle a weight issue either even though rice has carbs. Carbs are not the devil they are made to be, its just here in the USA we eat them in outrageous portions and with added processing, sugars, fat, and preservatives.
    Only you can prevent forest fires and only you decide what goes on your fork…or chopsticks. Unless you the gluttony victim from the movie “Seven”, no one is putting a gun to your head and making you eat garbage. That movie was awesome though.

  224. Where on Earth you get beef tongue and liver wrapped in lettuce for korean food? Im Korean myself and have never had those in my life. We just eat balanced food and are generally very conscious of consuming good nutrients through natural ingredients instead of eating banana and carrots 365 days. We eat seasonal veges and freshly cut or caught meat and seafood. Oh and big thing is sugar. Generally food here in America are LOADED with SUGAR.. ain’t good for u.

  225. I have always suspected that the Asian ability to maintain a low weight while eating a lot of rice has a lot to do with two things: 1) genetic tendency to be thin caused by generations of thin people marrying and having children (since you inherit the number of fat cells you have AND the eating habits your parents have) and 2) Better glucose tolerance caused by eating a high protein, low sugar diet. I also think that as Mark says in the article, moving around constantly has a lot to do with it too.

    My husband is Chinese. He can eat large amounts of rice and noodles without gaining weight, but he eats a very high protein diet. I am hypothyroid (which effects both blood sugar and cholesterol levels adversely) and if I eat more than 100 grams of carbs per day I will gain weight. Eating 100 grams of protein per day helps to regulate my blood sugar, but I will never be able to eat like my husband and his small, thin family members who put away an impressive amount of food!

  226. Fat people were relatively rare in our grandmother’s time. Rather than try and ape the Asian diet which people of European descent might not thrive on, we should figure our what made us fat in the past 50 years.

  227. I’d just like to respectfully throw this in here:

    “The evidence that Sisson provides to suggest that traditional Asian diets were rich in meat and offal is based on his observations of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants and Asian supermarkets in modern day United States. However, the food balance sheets from the United Nations for the early 1960s for these nations that Sisson makes special reference to, suggest that total animal food intake only amounted to between 2.5% and 10% of total caloric intake, with offal intake being almost non-existent.(87) As earlier dietary surveys, especially prior to World War II suggest that intake of animal foods was even lower, this casts significant doubt on Sisson’s suggestion that animal foods traditionally contributed to a large portion of these populations diets.(88, 89)”

    https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2013nl/aug/travis.htm