Can eating pasta really help you lose weight?


PASTA lovers had reason to celebrate yesterday, as headlines declared that the often-demonized carbohydrate could “help you lose weight.” But is this mainstay of Italian cuisine really good for your waistline?
The headlines were referring to a new meta-analysis, published yesterday (April 3) in the journal BMJ Open, that found that eating pasta was not linked with weight gain when it was consumed as part of a “low-glycemic-index” diet. (Foods that have a low glycemic index release sugar slowly into the bloodstream. Pasta has a relatively low glycemic index compared with other refined grains, such as white bread.)
The researchers analyzed data from 29 studies with a total of nearly 2,500 people who either consumed pasta as part of a low-glycemic diet or ate other carbohydrates that had a higher glycemic index. After about 12 weeks, those in the pasta groups lost, on average, about half a kilogram, or 1.1 lbs., compared with the groups that ate the other carbohydrates.
But the new findings are not an invitation to gorge on pasta. For one thing, the people in the pasta groups certainly weren’t doing so. Instead, they had, on average, 3.3 servings of pasta each week — and one serving was equal to about one-half cup of cooked pasta.
In addition, the researchers stressed that the findings apply only to pasta eaten in the context of a low-glycemic-index diet. Whether the new findings “will hold in the context of other healthy dietary patterns, such as Mediterranean and vegetarian dietary patterns, is unclear,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
What’s more, the researchers noted that the amount of weight loss seen in the study was small and that it’s unclear if people would keep this weight off over the long term.
Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant in Pittsburgh, who was not involved in the study, said that the results did not surprise her. Although pasta and other carbohydrates have a “bad reputation,” these foods can still have a place on your plate, she said.
“If your pasta is portioned properly and paired with a nutrient-rich vegetable and a lean protein, it can be a very healthy option,” Mangieri told Live Science. (A proper portion of pasta is is about one-half cup to one cup, she added.) But people need to be careful when they combine pasta with items like rich sauces, she said.

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