Although the Mediterranean diet has seen a recent surge in popularity, pasta is often rejected due to the belief that it contributes to weight gain. New research, you might be glad to hear, finds the complete opposite to be true.
[Pasta dish]
New research shows that pasta might not be the villain it has been painted as.

The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy diet based on the cuisine of the region.

Not only has the Mediterranean diet been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, but it also lowers “bad” cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

A recent meta-analysis, involving more than 1.5 million people, found that following the diet reduced the risk of cardiovascular mortality and, perhaps surprisingly, overall mortality.

The wonders of the Mediterranean diet do not stop at the heart, though. Other research has matched it with a reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

There is also evidence that when supplemented with mixed nuts and extra olive oil, the diet might stave off breast cancer.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

These are the key aspects of the Mediterranean diet:

  • Eating predominantly plant-based foods
  • Replacing butter with olive or canola oil
  • Flavor food with herbs rather than salt
  • Only eat red meat a few times a month
  • Eat poultry or fish twice a week
  • Eat with friends and family
  • Drink red wine in moderation (optional)
  • Exercise regularly.

One prevalent Mediterranean ingredient that is generally removed from this diet is pasta. However, if the results of a recent study are confirmed, this omission may soon be a thing of the past.

Is pasta so bad?

Pasta has previously been dismissed as a part of the diet because it is loaded with carbohydrate-based calories; a one-cup serving of spaghetti has around 220 calories. In general, anyone who is seriously attempting weight loss will reduce pasta intake significantly, if not remove it entirely from their meals.

However, breaking research, published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes, found the exact opposite to be true.

The study, carried out at the Department of Epidemiology, I.R.C.C.S. Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy, took data from two large epidemiological studies to examine the relationship between pasta consumption and certain weight parameters.

In all, data from 23,000 individuals was used in the study. The participants came from the Moli-sani and INHES (Italian Nutrition & Health Survey) studies:

The Moli-sani project began more than 10 years ago and involves 25,000 citizens living in the Molise region of Italy. Its aim is to examine the role of genetic and environmental factors on health, particularly in regards to cancer and cardiovascular and degenerative diseases.

Healthy BMI, lower waist circumference with pasta consumption

The INHES collects data via telephone-based questionnaires throughout all the regions of Italy. They collate information about eating habits, how they are influenced, awareness of dietary health topics, and the reasons behind food choices. In all, 9,319 people gave information as part of the INHES.

As for the results, they might come as a surprise to many.

“By analyzing anthropometric data of the participants and their eating habits, we have seen that consumption of pasta, contrary to what many think, is not associated with an increase in body weight; rather the opposite.

Our data show that enjoying pasta according to individuals’ needs contributes to a healthy body mass index [BMI], lower waist circumference, and better waist-hip ratio.”

First author George Pounis

Although pasta is often kicked to the curb when embarking on the Mediterranean diet, this no longer needs to be the case. Licia Iacoviello, head of the Laboratory of Molecular and Nutritional Epidemiology at Neuromed Institute, talks confidently about the changes that these findings might spark:

“The message emerging from this study, as from other scientific analyses conducted in the context of the Moli-sani Project and INHES, is that Mediterranean diet, consumed in moderation and respecting the variety of all its elements (pasta in the first place), is good to your health.”

For the pasta lovers of the world, this is good news. However, as with any component of a diet, moderation is the key to success.

Learn more about the Mediterranean diet and its positive effects on the heart.