Senator Cynthia Villar is correct: Eating too much rice is bad for the health

Philippine Senator Cynthia Villar drew some flak for suggesting that Filipinos limit their rice consumption. She thinks banning “unlimited rice” (or “unli-rice”) offerings in restaurants would be a good start. It was a preposterous idea, some say. “Who is she to tell us how much rice we eat?”, others asked in disgust. Then there were those who even pointed out the Villars’ (the family is a well-known property developer) – own voracious appetite for turning agricultural land into subdivisions or housing projects. As usual, instead of tackling the issue head-on, some would rather rebut with a totally unrelated topic to what she was trying to point out.

Yes, in the eyes of many Filipinos, Villar committed sacrilege. After all, Filipinos, being Asians, have always eaten rice, view it as a staple in their meals, and would continue to do so despite strong evidence that overconsumption of the grain can lead to a lot of health problems. Villar pointed this out during a Senate session:

“You know, the findings in other countries, mas better ang diet nila. Hindi masyadong maraming rice, may vegetable. If you really ask doctors, that’s a better diet,” Villar said after a hearing on rice importation and related issues.

“So dapat i-train na rin nating mga Filipinos not to eat too much rice kasi nagiging diabetic. And you know, it’s expensive to cure diabetes. Parang sinasabi sa ibang bansa kaya hindi sila nagiging self-sufficient, because they have a better diet. So makakatulong iyon, iyong sinasabi nilang unlimited rice, hindi maganda iyon sa diet natin,” she added.

A lot of poor Filipinos eat large amounts of cooked rice with little meat or protein on the side. They are unaware of what eating too much carbohydrates, which is what rice is, does to their bodies. They think that having a tummy full of rice is better than an empty tummy.

To be fair to Villar, she was actually trying to raise a problem that most Filipinos are unaware of or have been ignoring for decades. First of all, the country’s rice production will not meet the country’s demand. Villar doesn’t share the view that the Philippines will be rice sufficient by 2018 despite Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol’s earlier statement that he aimed to end by 2018 the country’s need to import rice. We recall that former President BS Aquino also promised that the Philippines would not be importing rice by 2013. That did not happen at all.

This year alone, projected consumption will far surpass projected domestic rice production:

Iyon ang projection (2018) ni Secretary Piñol, kung makukuha niya. Kasi ang importation depends on production. If the production can meet the consumption, then no importation. Marami nang nag-project nang ganoon, hindi naman natupad,” she said.

The senator based her position on the Agriculture department’s report on rice production.

For 2017, the projected rice production is at 12 million metric tons against the overall projected consumption of 12.1 million metric tons of rice in the country.

The amount is aside from the 625,000 metric tons of rice that would serve as buffer stock for 15 days, Villar said.

Since the country’s population keeps growing at a steady pace, these projections will likely be wrong especially since most Filipinos love eating the grain too much. It is high time for Filipinos to look at alternatives to rice. There are other healthier options like potatoes anyway. It’s just a matter of reconditioning our minds to think that rice is not the only thing we can eat with our main meals.

Sen. Cynthia Villar: Slammed by netizens for pointing out health risks associated with excessive rice consumption
Filipinos should not dismiss science. It is a fact that too much rice can lead to health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. If they are worried about dying from hunger, well they will die of diseases instead if they don’t control their rice consumption.

I can speak from experience. I used to eat large amounts of rice as well. I thought it was harmless since it has no sugar and no cholesterol. About a year ago, I probably indulged too much and gained excess weight. I could not get rid of it even when I was regularly going to body attack classes at the gym. I suppose you can say I was in denial until one day I accepted that it was my diet that was the culprit. I tried cutting down on eating rice and carbohydrates in general and saw the results in just one week. I was relieved to find out that just reducing rice intake could solve a lot of issues. I have become an advocate of responsible rice consumption. So I support Villar’s push to reduce rice consumption in the country.

Rice readily converts to sugar during digestion – which is why it is addictive, fattening and puts one at risk of diabetes. Another problem with rice is that it only makes you feel full for a short time. In just a few hours, you will feel hungry again. Then you will end up eating snacks in between meals, which can contribute to weight gain.

Eating more protein will make us feel fuller for a longer period of time. Protein also give us the energy we need throughout the day. Now, eating the right amount of protein may not be an option for a lot of poor people in the Philippines, but it doesn’t mean legislators like Villar should stop educating the public about health hazards of eating too much rice. It doesn’t mean her critics are justified in vilifying her.

Some argue that individuals should decide for themselves and there is no need to legislate limiting of rice consumption. They have a point, but we all know that some people who are not properly informed nor educated will not have the right mental tools to decide what is best for their health and well-being. Besides, health problems will also ultimately become the government’s problem specially if demand for hospital beds outstrip supply. So perhaps what our legislators can do in the meantime is to promote guidelines on healthy living for Filipinos.

Filipinos should be open to new ideas. We cannot keep doing something just because we have been doing it since forever. If an issue like rice consumption is already causing a lot of problems in Philippine society, we should not be afraid to talk about it so we can find alternative ways to eat and survive.


Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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34 Comments on "Senator Cynthia Villar is correct: Eating too much rice is bad for the health"

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Marcial Bonifacio
Ilda, kaibigan ko, I definitely support more advocacy groups and education which can facilitate a healthful diet or lifestyle. However that is where I think government’s role ends. If more of our kababayans would simply utilize the modern technology to be informed, then such health hazards can be avoided. Sa kasamaang-palad, they often utilize it for entertainment, sa halip ng mahalagang impormasyon. Even dietary knowledge is insufficient. A holistic approach is ideal, which includes exercise, relationships, lifestyle, and stress management. Our kababayans also need to have the desire and determination, which is manifested sa aksyon. Hindi sapat ang impormasyon lamang… Read more »
Aphetsky Lasa
What triggers diabetes is the high GI (glycemic index) of certain foods. White rice is one of these culprits. When eating, it is not about each food in a meal; it is about the whole meal itself. So, eating only rice in contrast to having sides on it makes a lot of difference. Filipinos are eating too much white rice, with hardly protein, fiber from vegetables, or fat added, incidentally raising their blood sugar. As a side note. Trying brown rice as alternative to white rice may be a good idea, as brown rice is healthier. It has more fiber… Read more »

How can I free myself from sexuality? Eat nothing but rice?

On June 2017, Cynthia Villar, a senator of the Republic of the Philippines suggested the banning of “unli-rice” promos among restaurants, citing bogus “scientific researches from other countries” as reference to conclude that unlimited rice offering in restaurants can cause diabetes. She also stated that the unli-rice promo leads to food wastage and rampantly claimed that banning the promo can help solve the problem of lingering food shortage in the country. This, naturally, received various criticism amongst netizens. While most of the critics and agitated food lovers targeted the senator’s business as contributive to the food shortage problem (having owned… Read more »

Some poor families eat, rice and “tuyo”, only…this is the reason, they fill their stomachs with rice.

There are alternatives, for carbohydrates, like : potatoes; sweet potatoes; corn ; etc… we should eat more of vegetables, fish, and meat…Noodles, like : pancit is carbohydrate , also. If we eat less, we will be lean and healthy …


It’s the right information, but the wrong step was called out. It seems bans are an attempt at popular appeal, but it backfired. Banning food is best replaced by an information campaign on health and food launched by the senator herself, which she can do without using public money. Perhaps she should fund projects for alternatives to rice, similar to what GRP earlier made in a video.

Dick S. O'Rosary
There are many ways to attack this rice consumption “problem.” Banning unli-rice is one of them, but I doubt this would actually have an impact because there are only a select number of establishments actually offering unli-rice. In an earlier congress, there was this bill proposing that restaurants only serve half cups of rice. I believe that this is a smarter move because Filipinos are well known rice wasters and this measure may actually affect our overall consumption. (Sources: 1 2) I’ve thought about educating people about brown rice—it is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and proteins and can also… Read more »

Fuck it was just a suggestion, an attempt at honest information dissemination.
Well by all means, eat more rice, and your sweet spaghetti and your lard-cooked fried chicken. Walang basagan ng trip. Wala ring kokontra kung tatawanan kita kung tinamaan ka ng diabetes. Take note di nagagamot yun. Kahit anong sabi ng anong fb share na nababasa mo.


mostly i eat rice because my body needs it. i bike to work almost 8km/day. so me eating rice as an individual got no problem with it.

Carbohydrates don’t cause diabetes not even sugar! It’s fat stored in your muscles blocking the insulin receptors that are the cause of diabetes. Once you loose enough fat your type II diabetes will go away. Eating white rice is starch that our body needs but we also need antioxidant, phytochemicals and other nutrients that is low in white rice. If you eat rice with nutrient dense green vegetables like camote leaves you will be fine. It’ amazing how much folks are misguided about the cause of diabetes including the author of this article. Start fucking educate yourself by start watching… Read more »

Eat a lot of green leafy vegetables; it will lower your sugar level in your body; and will cure your diabetes. Exercise, to stay lean and healthy…lower your body fat, by lowering your carbohydrate intake…


Worrying about rice when there’s a thousand other far more important problems to think about! Clever mind you, while we’re talking about rice, we’re not talking about anything else I guess – takes our mind of the real issues…


Ilda, apart from the health angle (I’m a prediabetic as a side effect of PCOS), yung rice wastage din should be a big concern, although more na ito of moral rather than governmental aspect. Kahit na may campaign to be more rice-ponsible I still see a lot if Filipinos wasting rice. At Mang Inasal here for instance, I often see customers ordering unli rice only to leave it unfinished on their plates. I feel sorry for the farmers who worked hard just to grow the rice.


Down below Attila’s comment, convo was reduced to trashtalks and confirmation bias.

I believe diabetics are advised to cut down or eliminate rice from their diet, because it indeed contributes to increased blood sugar, and in non-diabetics, lots of rice without adequate bodily exercise will make one fat. Lots of health findings still point down to cutting down rice consumption. Perhaps one can even support expanding alternate crops, such as kamote, grain and oats. I agree with Jah, unlimited rice leads to rice wastage. But the problem there won’t be solved by banning that promo. It’s better solved by Filipinos changing their eating habits. They actually do this to all kinds of… Read more »
If Cynthia Villar wanted to solve diabetes, she’d start with funding research projects about the disease. You cannot solve a problem that you don’t fully understand, and scientists admit that they barely understand what is the cause and cure for diabetes. Yet, Cynthia speak as if she’s certain with the cause and cure for diabetes (she’s basing on too few research data that is yet to be verified.) Attila might have a point. Basing on unverified researches could be counterintuitive as there could be a political agenda behind these “researches.” Take for instance, GMOs. Companies who would’ve been affected and… Read more »