Pasta primo!

A new study reveals that pasta doesn’t contribute to weight gain

Pasta lovers rejoice! A new study on this often-vilified source of carbohydrates and its effects on our weight and waistlines brought comforting results – pasta does not contribute to weight gain if it’s consumed as a part of an overall healthy diet.

The study looked at pasta as a part of low glycaemic index (GI) diets. Glycaemic index is a measure of the speed at which carbohydrates (sugars) are released from foods. Low GI means low speed and a steady energy supply, whilst high GI means fast speed with a quick energy release followed by an energy dip. It’s desirable to eat foods with a low or medium GI (fruit, vegetables, pulses, nuts, seeds, wholegrains) and avoid foods with a high GI (sugary foods, processed snacks, refined white flour products). However, pasta – despite being made of refined flour – has a low to medium GI. According to the Glycemic Index Foundation, pasta is unique among carbohydrates in that its starch molecules are enclosed in a network of gluten, a type of protein found in wheat. This dense structure slows the release of pasta’s carbohydrates during digestion, making it a steady energy source.

The study evaluated the effect of pasta consumed as a part of low GI diets and found that people who ate pasta had a healthier weight than people who avoided it. Of course, wholemeal pasta is better than ‘white’ pasta but both can be a part of a healthy diet. The authors concluded that there’s no reason to avoid pasta and that current obsession with low-carbohydrate diets is unfounded.

Chiavaroli L et al., 2018. Effect of pasta in the context of low-glycaemic index dietary patterns on body weight and markers of adiposity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials in adults. BMJ Open. 8(3):e019438.