BROWN RICE SYRUP
A sugar-coated alternative to sugar:
When you think of brown rice, it’s likely that you associate it with eating healthily. At some point, you’ve probably heard about the benefits of eating whole grains that are high in nutrients and fibre. So when you see brown rice syrup listed as an ingredient it’s not unreasonable to assume that it’s a healthier alternative to table sugar (sucrose). After all, it’s frequently marketed that way and is commonly used in sports food products. But as you’ll discover, it’s not healthier at all.
Often found in:
Oat, granola, chia and other ‘healthy’ cereal sports bars.
What is brown rice syrup?
Brown rice syrup (and organic brown rice syrup) is a processed sugar produced by fermenting cooked brown rice. It’s made by exposing cooked rice to saccharifying enzymes that break down the rice’s complex starch molecules into a sticky syrup of 3 simple sugars: maltotriose (52%), maltose (45%) and glucose (3%).
Sounds better than it is!
It may sound like a healthy alternative, but don’t be fooled by the name. The process of converting brown rice into syrup filters out all ‘impurities’, including any vitamins and minerals, leaving a calorie rich, but nutritionally-barren sugar. And this is the same whether it’s organic or not.
Surprisingly high GI
According to the Sydney University Glycemic Index (GI) database brown rice syrup has a GI value of 98. While not as high as the 106-136 of maltodextrin, it’s far higher than white table sugar (65), dates (42), or honey (35-48).
The result of this is that within 15-20 minutes of eating a product containing brown rice syrup your blood stream will be flooded with sugar. And in turn this leads to the energy-sapping blood sugar roller coasters, similar to those experienced with maltodextrin. Hence this is completely the opposite of the sustained energy levels that endurance athletes need for an optimal performance.
Why is it used?
With the increasing amount of research informing us of the health dangers of table sugar, manufacturers have sought a cost effective sweet alternative. Therefore by using brown rice syrup, you have an ingredient that sounds healthier, avoids the word ‘sugar’ on the packaging, and is cost effective.
Is it safe?
A research paper published in the Environmental Health Perspective Journal found high levels of arsenic in products containing organic brown rice syrup, including cereal bars.
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) says: “Rice tends to take up more arsenic from the environment than other cereal crops, although this can vary according to variety and method of production.”
And if the rice contains arsenic, so will the brown rice syrup!
Healthier alternatives: get yourself a date!
Dates and honey are a far healthier alternative to brown rice syrup. With a lower GI, these foods provide a slow and steady, nutrient-dense source of carbohydrates to help you perform at your best.
In this case, it would appear that nature really does know best!
The question is: do your sports nutrition products contain brown rice syrup? Ours don’t!