Pasta, part of a healthy diet, not tied to weight gain

April 16, 2018 in Healthy Eating, Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Pasta, part of a healthy diet, not tied to weight gain

To lose weight, or avoid gaining it, pasta is not one of the carbohydrates that needs to be banned researchers from the University of Toronto find.

Although pasta is made from refined grains, it’s low on the glycemic index scale, a measure of how quickly a person’s blood sugar levels rise after a food is eaten.

The research team analyzed data from 32 previous trials that compared eating pasta as part of a diet based on low-glycemic foods versus eating a high-glycemic diet without pasta. The researchers found that people lost more weight on the low-glycemic diet with pasta, and that pasta itself did not cause weight gain or increases in body fat.

The team wanted to determine if eating pasta had an adverse effect of body weight as is often perceived.

The trials in the review and analysis included a total of 2,448 participants, all overweight or obese, who were followed for at least 12 weeks, and in some cases up to 24 weeks. In addition to tracking weight, many of the trials assessed body fat as reflected by waist circumference, waist-hip ratio and body mass index (BMI).

Pasta eaters who ate an overall low GI didn’t gain weight

Overall, the study team found that people who ate low-glycemic-index diets with pasta didn’t gain weight. Rather, they lost a little (0.63 kilograms or 1.39 pounds) more than those on the high-glycemic diets that did not include pasta. There was also a slight decline in BMI with the low-glycemic diet, but no other measures of body fat changed.

The researchers also separately analyzed the 11 trials where pasta serving sizes and number were measured. They found those participants who ate an average of about three one-half-cup servings of pasta per week lost about 0.70 kg (1.54 lb) more than those who ate higher-glycemic diets.

White pasta is not the same as white bread

Pasta is an example of a processed food and a highly refined carbohydrate, that has a low glycemic index, precisely because of how it is processed. When flour and water are mixed then allowed to dry, it makes the starch less digestible, so it has a slower absorption rate and thus causes a slower and lower rise in blood glucose.

The analysis is limited by the fact that the study team couldn’t find any studies that examined pasta alone, but only as part of an overall dietary pattern. The study also did not differentiate between whole wheat and white pastas. Whole grains are a healthier choice because they contain much more fire that helps improve digestive health, promote satiety and, in so doing, may aid weight loss and control blood sugar.

Source: BMJ Open, online April 2, 2018.

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