Is Pasta Healthy for You ?

Is Pasta healthy for you?  Read on.

The “Pasta healthy for you” question we addressed by researching different studies, but, in reality, only one major study to date has any real science behind the Pasta healthy question and that is The Nurse’s Health Study (NHS).   Started in 1976 by Dr. Frank Speizer with funding provided by The National Institute of Health, it was expanded in 1989.  The NHS was originally designed to follow the effects of long term use of oral contraceptives.  Over 120,000 nurses answered the survey and tens of thousands of them continued in the research study.  Phase three, presently under way, has mailed out questioners to 1,000,000 participants.  The NHS provided scientists and physicians, for the first time, with diet and lifestyle information, from a statistically significant group of trained nurses who could better understand the nature of the questions asked than the average person.  The NHS has become a treasure trove of information vital to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including what we should eat (Pasta maybe?).  Dr. Donna Shalala, Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, called the NHS “One of the most significant studies ever conducted.”

Pasta is healthy for you because it’s an essential part of the Mediterranean Diet. A recent analysis of The Mediterranean Diet, published in February of 2009, using the NHS  as a basis, concluded that it reduced the risk of heart attack almost 30% and strokes by 13% as compared to conventional diets. Furthermore, study participants whose diets most closely matched the Mediterranean-style diet, that includes Pasta, were typically very healthy, had a 39% reduction in combined coronary heart disease and stroke mortality compared to women whose diets least matched it.  Teresa T. Fung, Sc.D., lead author of the study and associate professor at Simmons College and adjunct associate professor in nutrition at Harvard was quoted: “Those are dramatic results.  We found that women whose diets look like the Mediterranean diet are not only less likely to die from heart disease and stroke, but they are less likely to have those diseases.”

Not including Pasta, Mediterranean diets include: an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, olive oil as a main fat source, moderate fish consumption, lower poultry consumption, very little red meat consumption, eggs consumed sparingly, and a low daily red wine consumption. Except for bread, the foods in the Mediterranean Diet have a low Glycemic Index (including Pasta).

What is a food’s Glycemic Index and why is it important?   The Glycemic Index measures (using pure Glucose, measuring 100 on the Index, as a basis) how quickly a particular carbohydrate effects our blood glucose levels.  The most recent science indicates that choosing a wide variety of foods that have a lower Glycemic Index (carbs that enter the bloodstream more slowly) can dramatically lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to maintaining a stable weight.

Of further note, another major study done by the W.H.O. in 2009 found that men in the Republic of San Marino, which is entirely surrounded by Italy, a Mediterranean country which best exemplifies the diet, have the longest life expectancy in the world.

Written by Dino Romano, former Pasta Channel Italian Food Blogger, Italian Cook Extraordinaire,
Entrepreneur and Raconteur. Has taken Kyle Phillips (former Principle/Blogger for the
Guide to Italian Food) to task on several supposedly “authentic” Italian recipes.

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