A new study may put pasta back on the plates of spaghetti-loving dieters everywhere. Research published in Nutrition and Diabetes says people who eat pasta are less likely to be overweight and obese. Italian scientists have discovered that eating pasta, in fact, likely reduces body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of waist and hip circumferences and waist-to-hip ratio. Researchers studied the food and nutrient intakes of more than 23,000 Italians in association with BMI and found pasta lovers had a lower body mass index. Results of the research led by Dr. Licia Iacoviello of the IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed agreed with another recent study of 1,794 United States middle-aged adults.


Pasta did not prove to be the empty-calorie culprit that Americans think. We generally believe the tasty carbohydrate offers no nutritional value. In fact, one cup of regular pasta provides 6.7 grams of protein and small amounts of calcium and potassium. One cup of enriched whole wheat pasta adds iron, several B vitamins and up to 25 percent of daily fiber and folic acid requirements.


The new research found eating pasta helped both men and women stick to a healthy diet. Those who ate pasta tended to enthusiastically follow the Mediterranean diet. Pasta has long been a traditional part of the Mediterranean diet, and Italians consider it the basis of their food pyramid. Mediterranean diet is associated with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke and slower brain aging. Staples of the Mediterranean diet are generous portions of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and peas, unrefined grains, olive oil, and fish.


The researchers did not specify an ideal amount of pasta. It should be remembered that Italians typically eat a much smaller portion than Americans eat at single meal. Pasta is typically considered a first course rather than a main course. Participants in the Italian study said they typically consume 86 grams, or about three ounces.


Those who overate pasta did not do so well in the new study. The Italian researchers found obese participants had and consumed more grams of pasta each day than participants who had normal weights or who were merely overweight.


Pasta defenders have proclaimed that the carb’s history as a dietary mainstay in the Mediterranean goes back way before the current epidemics of modern obesity and diabetes. Nutritionists have said the problem with pasta is that we tend to overload it with sauces that are too salty, sugary and fatty.


So don’t overdo it.