The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Scientists Confirms Health Benefits of Pasta Meal

Scientists Confirms Health Benefits of Pasta Meal

Health and Wellness

December 26, 2010

Guest Columnist, Sara Baer-Sinnott

An international committee of scientists and food authorities recently met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to review updated research related to the role of healthy carbohydrates in a balanced diet. Together, these experts, representing 13 countries, issued a joint Scientific Consensus Statement on the Healthy Pasta Meal.

The group concluded eating a variety of healthy carbohydrates, fats and proteins tailored to individual preferences and lifestyle is essential. They also confirmed that healthy carbohydrate foods, like pasta meals, do not cause obesity, and made the recommendation that doctors, nutritionists and other health professionals should suggest varied and balanced pasta meals to their patients for good health.

At a time when weight gain has become cause for grave public health concern, the lesson is this: Never underestimate the value of a common sense plan for healthy eating.

Pasta has been an important part of many of the world’s traditional healthy eating patterns, such as the gold standard Mediterranean Diet, for thousands of years. With portion control, people around the world can enjoy this affordable staple, which is an important delivery system of healthy ingredients such as often under-consumed vegetables.

One committee member Kathy McManus, MS, RD, LDN, Director, Department of Nutrition, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said, “There is a prevalent myth that eating carbohydrates makes people fat but scientific evidence shows that excess calories and not carbohydrates cause obesity. It is important to know that healthy pasta meals and other low glycemic foods can be part of successful weight loss diets and support long-term weight maintenance.”

This Scientific Consensus Statement (below) was the outcome of a two-day scientific conference organized by Oldways and the International Pasta Organisation (IPO), as part of the IV World Pasta Congress, October 25-26, 2010. Research was summarized in a form that can be easily used by doctors, health professionals, dietitians, scientists, media, the food industry, and consumers, and we invite you to share it widely.

Key findings and conclusions include:

1. Scientific research increasingly supports the importance of total diet, rather than individual foods and nutrients.

2. Pasta is a key component of many of the world’s traditional healthy eating patterns, such as the scientifically proven Mediterranean Diet. Traditional dietary patterns confer greater health benefits than current Western dietary patterns. 

3. Many clinical trials confirm that excess calories, and not carbohydrates, are responsible for obesity. Diets successful in promoting weight loss can emphasize a range of healthy carbohydrates, protein and fat. All these three macronutrients, in balance, are essential for designing a healthy, individualized diet anyone can follow for their whole life. Moreover, very low carb diets may not be safe especially in the long term.

4. At a time when obesity and diabetes are rising around the world, pasta meals and other low-glycemic foods may help control blood sugar and weight especially in overweight people. Glycemic index is one of many factors that impact the healthfulness of foods.

5. Pasta is an affordable healthy choice available in almost all societies. Promoting the affordability and accessibility of pasta meals can help overcome the misperception that healthy foods are too expensive.

6. Healthy pasta meals are a delicious way to eat more vegetables, legumes and other healthy foods often underconsumed. 

7. Pasta meals are enjoyed in cultural traditions worldwide, as they are versatile and easily adaptable to national/regional seasonal ingredients.  

8. Doctors, nutritionists and other health professionals should recommend varied and balanced pasta meals for good health.
    
For a copy of the “Healthy Pasta Meals” Consensus Statement, conference presentations or research studies, please visit http://www.oldwayspt.org/2010-healthy-pasta-meals-scientific-consensus.


Sara Baer-Sinnott is President of Oldways (www.oldwayspt.org), an internationally respected non-profit, changing the way people eat through positive and practical programs grounded in science and tradition. The Whole Grains Council and The Mediterranean Foods Alliance are well known programs of Oldways, and the organization is also recognized for creating the Whole Grain Stamp and the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid.