• A new study shows that pasta can help you lose weight when consumed as part of a healthy, low glycemic (GI) index diet. (Moment RF/Getty Images)Source: Moment RF/Getty Images
Finally, scientists give us the all clear to go on a diet where we're required to eat carby-pasta dishes to lose weight.
By
Yasmin Noone

4 Apr 2018 - 12:11 PM  UPDATED 4 Apr 2018 - 1:47 PM

Carb-lovers can rejoice, for news that will enable you to eat your spag-bowl without guilt or dieter’s remorse has just been announced.

Canadian researchers from St Michael's Hospital in Toronto have made a ground-breaking food discovery revealing that pasta does not make you put on weight.

If that newsflash doesn’t stop you in your linguine-slurping tracks, please note: it gets better. Their study, released in the BMJ Open journal overnight, found that pasta can help you lose weight when consumed as part of a healthy, low Glycemic Index (GI) diet.

“These results are important given the negative messages with which the public has been inundated regarding carbohydrates..."

We’re not talking masses of weight loss here – the study observed a low-GI diet that includes pasta can help you lose up to half a kilogram over 12 weeks.

But one message is clear as a result of this study: dieters need not fear that eating carby macaroni will ruin their weight loss efforts. This news shows that you can be on a diet, have carbohydrates in the form of pasta and lose weight too.

“These results are important given the negative messages with which the public has been inundated regarding carbohydrates, messages which appear to be influencing their food choices, as evidenced by recent reductions in carbohydrate intake, especially in pasta intake,” the study, led by Laura Chiavaroli, reads.

“Contrary to these concerns, the available evidence shows that when pasta is consumed in the context of low-GI dietary patterns, there is no weight gain but rather marginally clinically significant weight loss.”

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Although pasta is a refined carbohydrate, it has a low-GI. According to the Dietitians Association of Australia, a low-GI food is one with an index of less than 55 that is slowly digested and absorbed. A low-GI diet aims to help you feel fuller for longer, provide a gradual stream of energy from one meal to the next, reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance, and keep blood glucose levels stable in people with diabetes.

Other low-GI foods include wholegrain bread, oats, apples, apricots, oranges, yoghurt, milk, dried beans and lentils.

The study suggests that pasta has a lower GI compared with other fibre-rich foods including whole-wheat bread, breakfast cereals like bran flakes and potatoes with skin.

Although pasta is a refined carbohydrate, it has a low-GI. 

“The present evidence means that pasta may be highlighted as an important example of a low-GI food that can contribute to a low-GI dietary pattern, a pattern which in turn may potentially improve cardiometabolic risk without an adverse effect on weight control.”

One common example of a low-GI diet is the Total Wellbeing Diet from the CSIRO

The study did not address pasta sauces or toppings. It's important to note that a low-GI dish made of pasta can quickly become a fatty, sugar-laden dish if eaten with a high-GI sauce.

Is this Sydney's cheesiest pasta?
Creamy carbonara is dished out of giant wheels of Parmigiano-Reggiano at this Sydney diner.

Are all pastas created equal?

The researchers made the recent discovery by undertaking an analysis of the current evidence available from various pasta trials. In doing so, they honed in on 30 randomised control trials, involving around 2,500 participants.

Purely for research purposes, the participants ate 3.3 servings of pasta (one serving equals one-half of a cup of cooked pasta) every week for 12 weeks, instead of eating other carbohydrates. The dieters also stuck to a low-GI diet. Weight loss of around half a kilogram per dieter was observed after three months.  

For readers who feel that there must be a catch – maybe the pasta was wholemeal or spelt? – rest assured. The authors confronted this assumption head on in the newly published paper. They concluded that although pasta can vary widely between pasta shape, pasta ingredients and processing techniques, these modifications produce only a slight variation in the GI value of pasta.

“..Glycaemic responses are still lower compared with a control, for example, white bread,” the study reads.

“The present evidence means that pasta may be highlighted as an important example of a low-GI food that can contribute to a low-GI dietary pattern, a pattern which in turn may potentially improve cardiometabolic risk without an adverse effect on weight control.”

This study is not the first in the world to celebrate the low-GI nature of pasta. 

One study, published in 2017, looked at how children in Spain fared when they ate a Mediterranean diet and increased the amount of pasta they ate.

Apparently, 11.3 per cent of participants who were obese or overweight and ate pasta, as part of the Mediterranean diet, lost weight compared to 2.6 per cent of children who weren’t on the diet.

Pasta intake was also assessed in a 2016 study, which looked at over 20,000 Italians. The results showed that higher pasta consumption was associated with lower BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio and with a lower prevalence of overweight and obesity.

Get your pasta on with these recipes
Prawn and chilli pasta

Try this take on the classic aglio e olio - al dente spaghetti gets tossed in with garlic, prawns and browned butter. 

Bloody Mary pasta

With a good hit of tomatoes and chilli, the bloody mary makes for a killer pasta sauce. 

Lecce pasta with salted ricotta (sagne n'cannulate with cacio ricotta)

This pasta dish can happily be eaten on the couch watching a movie without any messy red-sauce splatters because the shape of the pasta "twisted ribbons" catch the sauce neatly. 

Pasta with truffle butter and truffle egg yolk

My favourite way to use truffle butter is to serve it simply with pasta.