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Title: Barriers and facilitators of brown rice consumption, sensory acceptability and its effect on blood glucose level among university staff
Authors: Reddy, Anjellah 
Issue Date: 2021
Background: South Africa is undergoing an epidemiologic and nutrition transition,
characterized by a surge in the prevalence of overweight and obesity levels, with a noticeable
increase in the consumption of high energy-dense, low nutritive foods and beverages, and a
marked decrease in physical activity. Food consumption patterns in South Africa have changed
dramatically over the past decades, and will most likely continue to transform over the coming
decades. Diabetes is on the rise in South Africa, and a significant body of evidence suggests
that targeted interventions, such as the inclusion of whole grains and a plant-based diet, are
beneficial towards lowering blood glucose levels. A shift to substitute white rice with brown
rice, and to increase awareness on the impact of brown rice consumption, can be a solution
towards enabling behaviours aimed at subsequently maintaining and lowering blood glucose
levels among adults. However, this can only happen if barriers and facilitators of brown rice
consumption are identified and addressed. Additionally, pairing brown rice with meals
typically enjoyed by a target population may increase acceptability of brown rice inclusion in
the diet.
Aim: The purpose of this research was to determine barriers and facilitators of brown rice
consumption, and the sensory acceptability of brown rice when paired with typical South
African dishes, lastly, to measure the effect of a brown rice meal on blood glucose level among
staff members of the Durban University of Technology (DUT).
Methodology: The study used a mixed methods approach; qualitative methods were used to
assess the barriers and facilitators of consuming brown rice through three focus group
discussions (FGDs). A quantitative method approach was applied to assess the sensory
acceptability, appropriateness, and palatability of paired meals with brown rice. A selection of
measuring tools and techniques were utilized, namely, FGDs, starch food frequency
questionnaire (SFFO); sensory acceptability tests of brown rice cooked using various methods;
sensory acceptability tests of brown rice paired dishes; anthropometrics and clinical
measurements of participants, and pre-prandial and 2-hour post-prandial blood glucose
Results: Three FGDs were conducted until meaningful saturation was reached; two face-toface and one in the online mode. The total number of participants in the three FGD groups consisted of 24 participants, comprising of 25% (n=6) men and 75% (n=18) women
participants. Five broad themes were identified: perceptions of healthy and unhealthy foods,
factors that determine food choice, factors that influence rice choice, barriers, and facilitators
of including brown rice in the diet. The FGDs outlined the following barriers: brown rice is not
as tasty as white rice; it requires a longer cooking time; participants had limited preparation
skills; brown rice is expensive, and the designated family shopper purchases only white rice.
On the other hand, facilitators of brown rice consumption included favourable sensory
attributes such as crunchy mouthfeel, nuttiness, non-sticky texture and an earthy aroma. The
SFFQ was administered to 94 Durban University of Technology participants who work at the
institution. Significantly, the most frequently consumed starch was potatoes, where 63.8% of
the study participants had eaten potatoes in the previous 7 days (p=.010). This was followed
by brown bread (48.7%) and white parboiled rice (42.6%). In the total rice category, 89.4% of
participants reported consuming rice, of which brown rice was the least consumed (11.7%).
This alluded to a strong potential to shift from white to brown rice consumption if barriers
could be overcome. For the sensory acceptability tests of brown rice paired dishes, two meals,
butter chicken and lamb curry, were paired with brown rice. A strong liking was shown for
both these paired meals when examining all sensory attributes (appearance, taste, smell and
texture) with brown rice. The sensory evaluation (n=60) of butter chicken paired with brown
rice using the 9-point hedonic scale showed that taste had the highest ranking of 7.97, followed
by appearance at 7.95, texture at 7.90 and smell at 7.82. The sensory evaluation (n=60) of lamb
curry paired with brown rice showed that appearance had the highest ranking at (7.87),
followed by texture at (7.69), taste at (7.67) and smell at (7.52). Four different cooking methods
were used to cook brown rice, namely, stove-top, gas, microwave and oven. Although brown
rice prepared using microwave cooking was most preferred at (28.8%), the chi-square
goodness-of-fit test showed that all four cooking methods were equally preferred (p=.834). The
anthropometric results showed that the (n=51) mean waist circumference (WC) for both men
and women in this study was higher than the recommended WC cut-off points. The
anthropometric status in this study denotes that high WC places participants in this study at a
greater risk of chronic diseases. The anthropometric measure for weight (n=58), one participant
was underweight (1.15%); 28.4% (n=25) participants were normal weight; 35.22% (n=31)
participants were overweight, and 35.23% (n=31) participants were obese. The anthropometric
for height (n=58) in centimetres was indicated at 1.60 for women and 1.71 for men. After
participants observed an overnight fast, (n=60) the mean pre-prandial blood glucose level was
5.54 mmol/L, 2 hours after consuming a healthy brown rice breakfast, the mean post-prandial blood glucose was 5.45 mmol/L. Analysis from a Wilcoxon signed ranks test showed that there
was no significant difference in blood pre to post eating, (p=.771). Analysis using a paired ttest showed that there was no significant difference in blood values before and after eating,
(p=.431), meaning that blood glucose levels were maintained after consuming the brown rice
breakfast. The findings of this result endorse the healthful benefits of brown rice, as it is widely
evidenced in existing literature that brown rice reduces insulin spikes and aids in the
stabilisation of the body's blood sugar levels due to its low glycaemic index. There is potential
to shift participants from white to brown rice however, this can be facilitated by deliberately
pairing brown rice with dishes most preferred by the target population. Once palates become
more accustomed to brown rice, it may be easier to encourage brown rice consumption with
other dishes. No significant differences in post-prandial blood were found across the Body
Mass Index (BMI) categories, F (3, 51) (p= .970, p=.414). However, there was a significant
moderate positive correlation (r=.365) between WC and post-prandial blood scores, (p=.011)
alluding to the risk factor association of increased WC and blood glucose levels.
Conclusion: The health benefits associated with brown rice consumption as outlined in this
research, warrants that further research be conducted on the acceptance of brown among
consumers in South Africa. The favourable acceptance of brown rice when paired with butter
chicken, lamb curry; egg fried rice and breakfast muesli concept as depicted in this study,
indicates scope for a much larger percentage of brown rice consumption than the current
11.7%. It also alludes to the importance of contextualising meal combinations and sensory
acceptability, to fit specific contexts and thus influence consumption patterns. Shifting
individuals starch preference to more healthful starches, like brown rice, can contribute to
health gains for a target population. Alongside this, consumer education, recipes and sensory
sampling can help consumers feel part of the solution. Many studies have documented the
healthful benefits of making the transitional shift from white rice to brown rice. However, this
study notes despite its healthful benefits, that the acceptance of brown rice has been limited,
compelling the activation of consumer education and practical preparation solutions to ease
consumer acceptance of brown rice.
Thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of: Master of Applied Science in Food and Nutrition in the Department of Food and Nutrition: Consumer Science, Faculty of Applied Sciences at the
Durban University of Technology, 2021.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Applied Sciences)

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