Disproving rice claims lands Heleret Young Scientist prize

12 April 2017

Heleret, centre, presents her paper.

Heleret, centre, presents her paper.

A paper proving that adding coconut oil to rice doesn’t increase resistant starch levels landed Heleret Marilin Reisner the postgraduate prize at the IFST Young Scientist Competition last night.

The Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) MSc Food Bioscience student shone through a field of four at the Scottish final of the competition, which is run by the Institute of Food Science and Technology.

The Young Scientist Competition offers undergraduate and postgraduate students, and those one year after graduation based in the UK, the opportunity to present their current or recently completed food-related projects in front of their peers and to a panel of food professionals.

Heleret’s project examined claims in the media from two years ago that cooking rice with coconut oil and refrigerating it overnight can cut calories by up to 60%. The theory is that preparing rice in this fashion increases the amount of resistant starch inside it, which isn’t absorbed by the body.

However, Heleret’s paper disproved this.

She said: “I tried to keep the methods of my project as close to home-cooking methods as possible, to see if this would really work for those of us trying to cook healthier at home.

“I bought my ingredients from local shops and boiled basmati rice according to the instructions on the packaging. That’s 10 minutes of boiling on low heat, followed by allowing the rice to sit for three minutes, and then fluffing with a fork. The only difference was adding extra-virgin coconut oil (3% of the dry rice weight) to the boiling water, right before pouring the rice in.

“After cooking, I refrigerated the rice for 24 hours and reheated it in a microwave. Analysis of the resistant starch content, however, showed no increase compared to rice with no coconut oil added to it.”

Dr Janice Taylor, GCU Lecturer in Microbiology, said: “Heleret is an excellent ambassador for food science here at GCU. She has worked tirelessly on her project this semester and is now reaping the rewards.”

The judging panel was made up of Bill Crosson, former IFST Vice-President and Chair of IFST Scottish Branch (Head Judge); Moira Stalker, Food and Drink Federation Scotland; and Phyllis Brown, Research & Development Scientist, R-Biopharm Rhone Ltd, Glasgow.