New NPA Study Finds Pasta Eating Not Associated with Weight Gain
Washington, DC (July 2023) – A new literature review published in Nutrients, suggests pasta consumption is not associated with overweight or obesity in healthy children and adults, and in fact, may be inversely associated with Body Mass Index (BMI) or abdominal obesity, particularly when consumed in the context of a healthy dietary pattern. The research, “Impact of Pasta Intake on Body Weight and Body Composition: A Technical Review” which was conducted by Lisa M. Sanders of Cornerstone Nutrition, LLC and Joanne Slavin at the University of Minnesota on behalf of the National Pasta Association, was conducted to better understand the relationship between pasta and weight. The researchers examined 38 studies evaluating pasta intake and body weight outcomes, as well as potential mechanisms by which pasta may influence body weight (e.g., appetite regulation, glycemic response).
While the majority of studies reviewed were observational studies that evaluated pasta intake or compared dietary patterns higher in pasta to those lower in pasta, there was one clinical trial available that compared a weight loss diet with high intake vs low intake of pasta and found similar weight loss in both groups.
“Pasta is a common part of the diet in many cultures but is often perceived as contributing to overweight or obesity because it is a refined carbohydrate. This study shows that’s not true.” noted lead researcher Lisa Sanders, “Unlike many other refined carbohydrate foods, pasta has a unique, compact structure and low glycemic response which may help maintain a healthy body weight and doesn’t hinder weight loss.”
How can pasta do this? Research suggests slow digestibility resulting in a low glycemic response of pasta may play a role. A lower glycemic response may lead to a lower release of insulin. Insulin has been shown to trigger hunger and can potentially increase food intake. Cooking and cooling pasta also helps as this can lead to the formation of resistant starch. In addition, to these positive effects on digestion, pasta is also often paired with other healthy, high-fiber foods. This study noted that in most studies the pasta dietary pattern was also higher in vegetables, legumes, fruits, and fish compared to other dietary patterns.
Pasta is a convenient, nutritious, easy-to-prepare meal for both young and old and pleases even the pickiest of eaters. It has long been celebrated as one of America’s favorite foods and is advocated by nutritionists for its good nutrition.
Sanders LM, Slavin J. Impact of Pasta Intake on Body Weight and Body Composition: A Technical Review. Nutrients. 2023; 15(12):2689. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15122689
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About the National Pasta Association (NPA):
NPA is the leading trade association for the U.S. pasta industry. NPA encourages the consumption of pasta by being the center of knowledge and promoting sound public policy to the consumer, the industry and the regulatory bodies because a sustainable pasta industry is vital to healthy diets.