Study: Pasta isn’t bad for you after all

An analysis of 32 randomized control studies showed that pasta, as part of a low-glycemic diet, didn't contribute to weight gain in participants.

Study: Pasta isn’t bad for you after all
Image: Pixabay

The Mediterranean diet is widely considered one of the world’s healthiest, thought to be the key reason why there are so many centenarians in places like the Italian village of Acciaroli. However, pasta, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, has been vilified in recent years thanks to low-carb diets like paleo and keto.


A new study suggests that’s not quite justified, and that pasta can be part of a healthy diet that actually helps people lose weight.

Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada examined 32 previous randomized control studies in which about 2,500 participants ate pasta as part of a low-glycemic index (GI) diet—in other words, they ate foods that increase blood sugar levels relatively slowly.

The results from those studies showed that eating pasta as part of that balanced diet didn’t contribute to weight gain or increased fat levels. In fact, the average participant lost a little more than a pound over the course of the studies.


A clenched-fist-size portion of pasta usually amounts to one serving. (Image: Pixabay)

“In the context of weight, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet, in this case, a low-glycemic-index diet, (eating pasta) won’t sabotage or undo your goals and may even help you achieve them in terms of your weight,” lead study author John Sievenpiper told MSN.

That might seem strange, considering pasta is a processed food and a refined carbohydrate. But the processing that pasta undergoes actually leaves its starch less digestible—and more slowly absorbed by the body—than other processed foods. This causes you to feel full for longer, and hopefully helps you to stave off cravings for junk foods between meals.

“These results are important given the negative messages with which the public has been inundated regarding carbohydrates, messages which appear to be influencing their food choices, as evidenced by recent reductions in carbohydrate intake, especially in pasta intake,” the authors wrote.

“So contrary to concerns, perhaps pasta can be part of a healthy diet such as a low GI diet,” Sievenpiper said in a statement.

A low GI diet could also include most fruits and vegetables, beans, and nuts, while white bread, bagels, and cakes are all examples of high GI foods with sugars that are quickly absorbed and digested by the body.

Nichola Ludlam-Raine, a dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, told Newsweek that carbs aren’t the devil—it just comes down to how you incorporate them into your diet.

“The reason why carbohydrates have a bad rep is that we tend to eat too much of them and then smother them in fat and sugar, i.e. extra calories. For example big bowls of cheesy pasta and sugary cereal. So it isn’t carbohydrates per se that cause weight gain, it’s the portion size in which we eat them and what we add to them that counts.”

So instead of eating pasta smothered in red sauce and red meat, delicious as it may be, you could cook up an Italian favorite like spaghetti aglio e olio, which is pasta with olive oil, garlic, salt, parmesan cheese, and maybe a bit of parsley and red pepper.  

“It’s not the amount of fats or carbs in your diet that matters, it’s down to the overall quality and taking both into account matters,” Ludlam-Raine said.

Malcolm Gladwell live | How to re-examine everything you know

Join Radiolab's Latif Nasser at 1pm ET on Monday as he chats with Malcolm Gladwell live on Big Think.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to your calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

There are 5 eras in the universe's lifecycle. Right now, we're in the second era.

Astronomers find these five chapters to be a handy way of conceiving the universe's incredibly long lifespan.

Image based on logarithmic maps of the Universe put together by Princeton University researchers, and images produced by NASA based on observations made by their telescopes and roving spacecraft

Image source: Pablo Carlos Budassi
Surprising Science
  • We're in the middle, or thereabouts, of the universe's Stelliferous era.
  • If you think there's a lot going on out there now, the first era's drama makes things these days look pretty calm.
  • Scientists attempt to understand the past and present by bringing together the last couple of centuries' major schools of thought.
Keep reading Show less

To be a great innovator, learn to embrace and thrive in uncertainty

Innovators don't ignore risk; they are just better able to analyze it in uncertain situations.

David McNew/Getty Images
Personal Growth
Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, was America's first female self-made millionaire.
Keep reading Show less

All of Jimi Hendrix’s gigs in one beautiful flash

Remarkable 'fan art' commemorates 50th anniversary of legendary guitar player's passing.

In four short years, Jimi Hendrix performed more than 400 times, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Image: Owen Powell, reproduced with kind permission.
Strange Maps
  • Legendary rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix died exactly 50 years ago today.
  • From September 1966 to his death, he performed over 450 times.
  • This spectacular 'gigograph' shows the geographic dimension of his short but busy career.
Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast