There is a consistent and mounting accumulation of nutrition science evidence for the healthfulness of pasta and the pasta meal. The following summaries of recent scientific studies make clear that not only is the pasta itself a health-promoting and nutritious food, but that when it is paired with its “partners” on the plate or in a bowl—olive oil, vegetables, beans, fish or meat—pasta quite dramatically emerges as a nutritionist’s dream.
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▲ Med-Style Diets Promote Heart Health
Pasta is a staple of the Mediterranean Diet. In a one-year study, researchers at Pontificia Catholic University in Santiago, Chile “Mediterraneanized” the diet in a workplace cafeteria. 145 workers started the study, and 96 completed every step of the plan. As the workers’ diets more closely approached a Med-style diet (as measured by a peer-reviewed scientific study), waist circumference, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, blood pressure, and other health markers improved significantly.
Public Health Nutrition, September 2009; 12(9A):1635-43.
▲ Pasta Among Foods Associated with Healthy Arteries
A growing movement aims to associate entire eating patterns—rather than nutrients or even individual foods—with better health. At the University of South Carolina, researchers sought to identify food patterns that increase or decrease coronary artery disease. Their research showed greater risk in those who ate a pattern of higher intakes of less healthful foods and lower intakes of more healthful foods (rice, pasta, and poultry).
British Journal of Nutrition, May 2010; 103(10): 1471-9.
▲ Low Carb Diets May Be Harmful
University of Colorado researchers randomly assigned 32 healthy obese adults to either a high fat (low carb) or a high carb (low fat) diet for six weeks. They found that weight loss was similar between both diets, but the high fat (low carb) diet increased LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, March 2010; 91(3):578-85.
▲ Perceptions vs. Reality in Affordability of Healthy Foods
In Victoria, Australia, scientists at Deakin University wanted to know if financial means and food costs significantly impacted women’s fruit, vegetable, and food consumption. After surveying 1,850 women from 45 neighborhoods, the researchers concluded that the quality of peoples’ diet is linked more to the perception that “good food must cost more,” rather than their financial status. The study suggests that socioeconomic differences in diet are almost completely explained by perceptions of food availability, accessibility, and affordability, not actual cost impediments.
Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, March 2008; 62(3):191-7.
▲ Med Diet Reduces Risk of Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic Syndrome is considered to be present if someone has three or more of the following: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, large waist circumference, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and high triglycerides. To assess the Mediterranean Diet’s effect on metabolic syndrome, scientists in Greece and Italy conducted an analysis of 50 Med Diet studies involving more than half a million people. The researchers found that the Med Diet improved all five risk factors, and overall reduced the risk of Metabolic Syndrome. They concluded that this dietary pattern can be easily adopted by all population groups and various cultures, and cost-effectively prevent Metabolic Syndrome and its related ailments.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 15 March 2011; 57:1299-1313.
▲ Brain MRIs show Less Disease with Med Diet
Food for thought: Scientists at the Taub Institute for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain collected MRI data on the brains of 707 elderly New Yorkers. They then studied the diets of these people over 5.8 years and divided the participants into three groups according to Mediterranean Diet adherence. They found that participants in the top-adherence group had 36% less evidence of brain dysfunction (due to blood vessel disease) and that those in the middle group had 22% reduced odds, concluding that higher adherence to the Mediterranean Diet may keep our brains healthier as we age.
Annals of Neurology, February 2011; 69(2): 257-68
▲ Med Diet—and Pasta—Recommended for Kids
Start early: Scientists at the Hospital Virgen del Camino, in Pamplona, Spain compared the diet of high school students to the proven-healthy Mediterranean Diet and determined their scores on the “KidMed” index. They found that diet quality decreases progressively with age, and recommended that students should “increase consumption of fruit, vegetables, nuts, pasta and rice, yogurt and cheese, pulses and fish.”
Anales del Sistema Sanitario de Navarra, aJan-Apr 2010; 33(1):35-42.