Possible Reason for Increase in Diabetes Cases?


All-purpose flour or refined flour is a typical ingredient used in a considerable number of cooking styles globally. Living in Malaysia means the white flour somehow is a part of your diet and everyday meal in one form or the other. Whether it is the pisang goreng, apam balik or pau, or the quintessential white BREAD! Each of this has one common ingredient, yes, refined flour which forms the primary base.

Considering everything, we all know the nutritional value of refined flour – just about nil. Flour is generally given the clean white colour and texture after it is made to go through a zillion procedures including the process of bleaching – like white sugar. Unbleached flour is bleached and thus we get our white all-purpose flour!  So, at the end of all these procedures, all you get is white flour with depreciated nutritional value – and almost 0% fibre.


Image Source

Nutritional Content:

Whole Wheat Flour (1 cup)Refined Flour (1 cup)
Calorie Breakdown


From the table you can see for yourself, the distinction in the measure of essential nutrients present in both types of flour. If you wish to trust the fact that the difference in nutritional values between the two flours is negligible and that you can compensate for this by making a few changes in your diet, we would like to present to you another fact that might probably make you think again.


This is the amount of nutrition that is lost after the bleaching procedure:

  • 50% calcium

  • 70% Phosphorus

  • 80% Iron

  • 98% of Magnesium

  • Almost the entire Vit E content

  • 50-80% of B Vitamins

  • 50% of essential unsaturated fatty acids



Unbleached flour is treated and undergoes processes such as bleaching to give you the final trademark white colour – the perfect white. You should know the way chemicals are included in this procedure. Chlorine gas is employed as a flour-bleaching agent; it can be deadly when breathed in. Some other chemicals utilized as a part of this procedure include benzoyl peroxide, nitrogen oxide and nitrosyl oxide along with several chemical salts.

The presence of chemicals in our food stuffs has become quite common and we seem to be living knowing this fact. Why should we allow it to happen?  This is what is worrying about these procedures. The chlorine gas that is employed as bleaching agent gets oxidised when it interacts with the proteins in the flour. This leads to the formation of a compound called alloxan, a by-product that is quite worrying. While industry pioneers state that such oxidation and bleaching don't leave behind residues in the flour which can be dangerous for consumption, however there isn't much evidence to support it too.


So why is Alloxan risky?

Alloxan is a by-product formed at the end of the bleaching procedure. It is used by researchers in diabetes research. They found that alloxan can cause release of a huge number of free radicals, thus resulting in damage to insulin cells of the pancreas - Cells of the Islets of Langerhans to be precise, which are responsible for producing insulin.  This was observed in mice and rats studied by scientists in whom, diabetes was created artificially using alloxan.

Researchers do assert that the amount of alloxan produced as by-product during the bleaching procedure is pretty less and insufficient to result in diabetes in people. Inspite of knowing that refined flour has almost no nourishment, is it smart to keep including it in the diet? We are all wary of the fact that diabetes is one serious disease plaguing our nation, so do you think it is wise to continue consuming this poison in the form of our daily bread?  Think!


So what would you do to bring about change?


Try to use as much unbleached flour as possible, if it is organic, it would be perfect!

Attempt to reduce the consumption of foods containing bleached refined flour, particularly when eating out.

You could try to replace refined flour with a variety of other flours, some of them can be made at home as well – brown rice flour, chickpea or gram flour, quinoa flour to name a few.


Apart from keeping an eye on what you eat, it is also essential to be aware of the status of your health at least once a year. Get yourself checked, you could make use of what we have to offer!



Hridya Anand

by Hridya Anand

A biochemist by education who could never put what she studied to good use, finally found GetDoc as a medium to do what she loved - bring information to people using a forum that is dedicated to all things medical. View all articles by Hridya Anand.


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