Contrary to the belief and warnings from carbohydrate haters, pasta may actually be good for you and can reduce risk of obesity, according to a new study by Italian scientists.
The study, carried out by researchers at the Neuromed Institute in Pozzilli, Italy, looked at the diets of over 23,000 adults and concluded that there was no correlation between gaining weight and eating pasta.
The research published in Nutrition and Diabetes journal maintained that rather than putting on weight, the people who regularly consumed pasta (in moderation) actually had a 'lower waist circumference and better waist-hip ratio' (low BMI).
The study also revealed that this pasta consumption was part of a larger dietary pattern that they referred to as a 'healthy Mediterranean diet' that was made up of fruit, vegetables, fish, olive oil and whole grains. This diet as a whole has been associated with a higher level of health with lower risk of stroke and heart disease.
George Pounis, the paper's lead author, said: "We have seen that consumption of pasta, contrary to what many think, is not associated with an increase in body weight, rather the opposite. Our data show that enjoying pasta according to individuals' needs contributes to a healthy body mass index, lower waist circumference and better waist-hip ratio".
The subjects had their diet monitored throughout the year, although were left alone at Christmas, Easter and middle August periods so if you thinking of applying your Tuscan holiday binge of pappardelle to this same study you may not get the same results.
Licia Iacoviello, Head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Nutritional Epidemiology at Neuromed Institute where the study was conducted, said: "In popular views pasta is often considered not adequate when you want to lose weight. And some people completely ban it from their meals.
"In light of this research, we can say that this is not a correct attitude. We're talking about a fundamental component of Italian Mediterranean tradition, and there is no reason to do without it.
"The message emerging from this study, as from other scientific analyses conducted in the context of the Moli-sani Project and INHES, is that Mediterranean diet, consumed in moderation and respecting the variety of all its elements (pasta in the first place), is good to your health".
Dr Gunter Kuhnle, associate professor in nutrition and health at the University of Reading, said "pasta intake" in the study was not seen in isolation but was part of a dietary pattern.
"In this study, people who consumed a lot of pasta also followed a traditional Mediterranean diet, which is not surprising as the study was conducted in a Mediterranean population. Pasta intake could therefore be mainly a marker for adherence to this kind of diet.
"What is interesting however is, that these results clearly show that it is wrong to demonise carbohydrates as the data clearly show that consumption of a carbohydrate-rich food such as pasta does not have to have an adverse effect on body weight. The results of this study confirm current dietary recommendations and support the recommendation for a balanced diet."