Pasta can help in weight loss, research suggests

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Pasta is displayed at the Alimentaria trade show in Barcelona March 25, 2010. Food and drink manufacturers and distributors from around the world are showcasing their products at Alimentaria until March 26.
Pasta is displayed at the Alimentaria trade show in Barcelona March 25, 2010. Reuters/Albert Gea

New research has linked eating pasta with weight loss. The study has observed that a low-GI diet that includes pasta can help in losing up to half a kilogram over 12 weeks.

The study claims that pasta can help in weight loss when consumed as part of a low Glycemic Index (GI) diet. Researchers from St Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto looked into the results from 30 various studies of people who included pasta in a low glycemic index diet.

About 2,500 participants ate 3.3 servings of pasta (one serving equals one-half of a cup of cooked pasta) each week for 12 weeks and stuck to a low-GI diet. After three months, weight loss of about half a kilogram per dieter was observed.

The pasta eaters did not gain weight but lost about one pound after 12 weeks. Lead author John Sievenpiper, MD, PhD confirmed in a statement that pasta did not contribute to an increase in body fat or weight gain.

Sievenpiper, clinician scientist at St Michael’s Hospital, added that analysis showed a small weight loss. “So contrary to concerns, perhaps pasta can be part of a healthy diet such as a low GI diet.”

Pasta is a refined carbohydrate, but it has a low-GI. A low-GI food, the Dietitians Association of Australia states, has an index of less than 55 that is slowly digested and absorbed.

A low-GI diet aims to provide a gradual stream of energy from one meal to the next, cut insulin levels and insulin resistance and help an individual feel fuller for longer. For people with diabetes, such type of diet aims to keep blood glucose levels stable.

It is likely that pasta has a lower GI than other fibre-rich foods such as potatoes with skin and whole-wheat bread. “The present evidence means that pasta may be highlighted as an important example of a low-GI food that can contribute to a low-GI dietary pattern, a pattern which in turn may potentially improve cardiometabolic risk without an adverse effect on weight control,” the study, published in BMJ Open, says.

Pasta sauces or toppings were not addressed in the study. It must be noted, though, that a low-GI dish made of pasta can become fatty if consumed with a high-GI sauce.

A 2016 study also showed that pasta consumption was associated with lower BMI and lower prevalence of becoming overweight and obesity.