Food and Behaviour Research

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Mediators of the effects of rice intake on health in individuals consuming a traditional Japanese diet centered on rice

Koga M, Toyomaki A, Miyazaki A, Nakai Y, Yamaguchi A, Kubo C, Suzuki J, Ohkubo I, Shimizu M, Musashi M, Kiso Y, Kusumi I. M, Toyomaki A, Miyazaki A, Nakai Y, Yamaguchi A, Kubo C, Suzuki J, Ohkubo I, Shimizu M, Musashi M, Kiso Y, Kusumi I (2017) PLoS One.  2017 Oct;12(10): e0185816. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0185816. eCollection 2017. 

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Although the Japanese diet is believed to be balanced and healthy, its benefits have been poorly investigated, especially in terms of effects on mental health. We investigated dietary patterns and physical and mental health in the Japanese population using an epidemiological survey to determine the health benefits of the traditional Japanese diet.

uestionnaires to assess dietary habits, quality of life, sleep quality, impulsivity, and depression severity were distributed to 550 randomly selected middle-aged and elderly individuals. Participants with any physical or mental disease were excluded. Two-hundred and seventy-eight participants were selected for the final statistical analysis. We determined rice to be one of the most traditional foods in Japanese cuisine.

Scores for each questionnaire were computed, and the correlations between rice intake and health indices were assessed. When analyzing the direct correlations between rice intake and health indices, we found only two correlations, namely those with quality of life (vitality) and sleep quality. Path analysis using structural equation modeling was performed to investigate the association between rice intake and health, with indirect effects included in the model.

Additional associations between rice intake and health were explained using this model when compared to those using direct correlation analysis. Path analysis was used to identify mediators of the rice-health association. These mediators were miso (soybean paste) soup, green tea, and natto (fermented soybean) intake. Interestingly, these mediators have been major components of the Japanese diet since 1975, which has been considered one of the healthiest diets since the 1960s.

Our results indicate that the combination of rice with other healthy foods, which is representative of the traditional Japanese diet, may contribute to improvements in physical and mental health.