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The misunderstood noodle

Does pasta pack on the pounds? This meta-analysis aimed to find out.

Study under review: Effect of pasta in the context of lowglycaemic index dietary patterns on body weight and markers of adiposity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials in adults.

Introduction

Pasta and rice constitute about 4.5% of our total grain[1] intake in the U.S. Contrary to popular belief, pasta is considered a low-glycemic index (low-GI) food[2] with a GI of less than 55. This characteristic could promote blood glucose control. For example, meals with pasta[3] have a 35-50% lower glucose response compared to meals with white bread or cooked potatoes. This is attributed to the compact structure[4] of pasta, which is composed of a network of starch and gluten, which reduces the ability of our digestive enzymes to break down the pasta for absorption. However, pasta is often cut by dieters attempting weight loss as it is commonly confused for a food that will spike blood sugar.

While there is some controversy[5] surrounding the use of low-carbohydrate diets, there is evidence showing that the quality of the carbohydrates in a diet may play a role in weight loss[6] success and reduction of chronic disease[7] risk. For example, low glycemic diets[6] have been shown to decrease bodyweight, albeit to a very small degree, and improve chronic disease risk compared to control diets. Higher intakes (about three daily servings) of whole grains[8] are also associated with lower BMI and central adiposity. Additionally, diets higher in fiber[9] seem to support improvements in body composition.

Foods that are lower in glycemic index[10] (GI) or higher in fiber[11] have the potential to dampen glucose spikes after a meal, promote fullness[12], and decrease the amount of total calories consumed. You can see the basics of how GI is measured in Figure 1. Although pasta has a low GI, it goes through refinement and processing methods that result in less total fiber than other grain options. However, it’s not clear whether pasta has any bearing on weight loss or measures of adiposity, which motivated the meta-analysis under review.

Pasta is a low-glycemic index (GI) grain product. There is evidence to support the idea that low-GI diets may aid in weight loss. Therefore, pasta’s inclusion in diets for weight loss warrants review and is the topic of this recent meta-analysis.

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Other Articles in Issue #43 (May 2018)