If your waistline looks more like gnocchi than spaghetti, there is no need to forgo the farfalle.

  • Reference: CHRIS SMYTH | THE TIMES | April 5, 2018


While official health guidelines have never advised against pasta, it has come under attack from trendy low-carb fads.

Joining advocates of the Atkins diet, some doctors have turned against carbohydrates as part of a backlash against demonisation of meat and dairy products.

“Much of the attention has focused on sugars, but traditional carbohydrate staples like pasta, rice and breads are increasingly being implicated in the epidemics of obesity,” writes John Sievenpiper from St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto in the journal BMJ Open.

He found 32 randomised trials looking at pasta consumption as part of a healthy diet, where people ate an average of three servings a week instead of other carbohydrates.

Unlike other refined carbohydrates, pasta has a low “glycaemic index”, meaning it does not cause blood sugar to spike and all the trials looked at people who were trying to avoid “high GI” food. Over four months, people eating pasta in this way lost 0.63kg, while seeing no increase in body fat, pooled results show.

“The study found that pasta didn’t contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat,” Dr Sievenpiper said. “In fact analysis actually showed a small weight loss. So contrary to concerns, perhaps pasta can be part of a healthy diet such as a low GI diet.”

He added: “We can now say with some confidence that pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern.”

His team say that their results are important “given the negative messages with which the public has been inundated regarding carbohydrates.”

Low GI foods are thought to be more filling, meaning that people find it easier to eat less. A Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, nuts and olive oil has repeatedly been shown to benefit the heart and Dr Sievenpiper said it made sense that meals based on pasta would be part of this.

Professor Naveed Sattar of the University of Glasgow agreed: “In the end, weight gain occurs with overconsumption of calories and so portion size matters. Regular portions of healthy pasta can be part of a healthy balanced diet.”