In recent years the use of a rice diet in the treatment of diseases of the heart and blood pressure has gained considerable attention.
This diet, originally introduced in 1940 by Dr. W. Kempner at Duke University School of Medicine, demonstrated anew the value of a modified nutritional program. Dr. Kempner discovered this diet when he observed that the people living in countries where rice is the main staple of food had a low incidence of heart and blood vessel diseases.
This diet is very simple. The main food is rice cooked in plain water or fruit juice, with the addition of some fruit.
Spectacular results have been obtained 1jdth this diet. A marked drop in blood pressure, a reduction in the size of the heart, absorption of hemorrhages in the eye, a change in the reading of the electrocardiogram, and a clearing up of edema or swellings were some of the changes observed following its use.
A point that should be stressed is that the phenomenal benefits derived from this diet result not because of any special quality inherent in rice but because of the limitations imposed in connection with the diet.
The classical rice diet eliminates the use of all salt, reduces the fat intake to no more than five grams a day, restricts the use of protein to twenty grams a day, and provides a total food intake of no more than 2000 calories per day. Furthermore, it excludes most of the so-called conventional foods, including spices and the stimulants, which overtax digestion, lead to the formation of irritating toxins, and are conducive to damage to the heart, the arteries, and the kidneys.
These restrictions are the real factors that contribute to improvement in heart and circulatory diseases, and it is imperative that we recognise this fact if continuous healthful results are really desired. The sufferer from these diseases needs a suitable diet, worked out to satisfy his permanent needs, and not one that serves merely as a temporary expedient.
The rice diet itself presents many disadvantages that preclude its use for more than short periods of time. One of its disadvantages is its extreme monotony. Another is the exclusion of many fruits and vegetables merely because of their sodium content. While it is true that table salt can be extremely harmful in these cases and therefore must be excluded, this does not hold true with regard to fruits and vegetables that contain sodium. The element sodium is essential to health, and it is well to bear in mind that the sodium in fruits and vegetables affects the body differently from the sodium present in concentrated form in table salt.
While those who prescribe the classical rice diet try to guard against deficiencies by the addition of concentrated supplements, it is well to bear in mind that the vitamins and minerals obtained in supplements can never take the place of the vitamins and minerals obtainable in foods in their natural form.
One of the major fallacies of the rice diet is that it fails to take into consideration the need for an all-rounti flexible nutritional program, and that as a result many of its followers sooner or later return to most of their original harmful habits of eating.