Pasta has a bad rep when it comes to healthy eating and weight gain, with people resisting its delicious lure in favour of lower-carb options.
But a new study suggests your favourite Italian dish can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet, as long as it's eaten in moderation. In fact, people who ate it regularly even lost weight (albeit a small amount).
Researchers at St Michael's Hospital in Toronto undertook a review of existing data from 30 previous studies involving almost 2,500 people, who ate pasta instead of other carbohydrates.
Participants involved in the trials ate 3.3 servings of pasta each week on average, replacing other carbs they usually opt for. Within the trials, one serving equaled around half a cup of cooked pasta.
Not only did the participants not gain weight over the course of 12 weeks, but they lost around 0.5 kilograms per person on average.
Unlike most refined carbohydrates, which are rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, pasta has a low glycemic index (low GI), meaning it causes smaller increases in blood sugar levels than those caused by eating foods with a high GI. The review, published in the journal BMJ Open, focused on people eating a low-GI diet, including pasta.
"The study found that pasta didn't contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat," said lead author Dr John Sievenpiper, a scientist with the hospital's clinical nutrition and risk-modification centre. "In fact, analysis actually showed a small weight loss. So contrary to concerns, perhaps pasta can be part of a healthy diet such as a low-GI diet."
The study authors stressed that these results only associated pasta with no weight gain when it was consumed as part of a healthy, balanced, low-GI diet. They cautioned that more work is needed to determine if the results will extend to pasta as part of other healthy diets.
"In weighing the evidence, we can now say with some confidence that pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern," said Dr Sievenpiper.