Eating pasta won’t make you obese – in fact, it makes obesity less likely, study finds

More evidence found of the benefits of Mediterranean diet, scientists say. Also in health news: if you want your kids to eat more vegetables, you need to give greens superhero status

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2016, 9:19pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 July, 2016, 5:33pm

Eating pasta doesn’t contribute to obesity, contrary to popular belief. In fact, a new study has found that consuming the traditional Italian carbohydrate is associated with a reduced likelihood of both general and abdominal obesity. The research, conducted by the Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed in Pozzilli, Italy and published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes, examined over 23,000 people recruited in two large epidemiological studies, Moli-sani Project and INHES.

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“By analysing 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, lower waist circumference and better waist-hip ratio,” says George Pounis, first author of the paper.

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Licia Iacoviello, head of the laboratory of molecular and nutritional epidemiology at Neuromed, says: “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.”

Want children to eat their vegetables? Turn squash into a superhero

Miki Mushroom, Zach Zucchini and Suzie Sweet Pea: these characters could convince even the fussiest children to eat their vegetables, according to research in the US. This trio of superheroes – part of a team of cartoon characters called Super Sprowtz – as much as tripled the percentage of students choosing items from the salad bar in 10 public elementary schools in urban New York state that participated in the study.

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“If we put the time and good resources into marketing healthy choices to kids, it can work,” says Andrew Hanks, an assistant professor of human sciences at Ohio State University and lead researcher of the study, which appears in the journal Pediatrics. “These interventions don’t need to be costly and there is a great opportunity to improve nutrition, performance in school and behaviour as well.”

In some interventions, they wrapped the bottom portion of the salad bar with a vinyl banner depicting the super vegetables. In others, they played Super Sprowtz videos in the lunch room. And in others, they tried both tactics. In schools with the salad bar banners, the researchers saw 24 per cent of children taking vegetables from the salad bars, almost double what they’d observed in the weeks leading up to the change. In those schools that had characters on the salad bar and on video, vegetable selection jumped from 10 per cent to almost 35 per cent. The researchers saw no significant improvement in schools with videos alone.

Cravings for high-calorie foods may be switched off in the brain by new supplement

Eating a type of powdered food supplement, based on a molecule produced by bacteria in the gut, reduces cravings for high-calorie foods such as chocolate, cake and pizza, a new study suggests. Scientists from Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow asked 20 volunteers to consume a milk shake that either contained the supplement called inulin-propionate ester, or a type of fibre called inulin. Previous studies have shown gut bacteria release a compound called propionate when they digest inulin, which can signal to the brain to reduce appetite. However, the supplement releases much more propionate in the intestines than inulin alone.

After drinking the milk shakes, the study participants underwent an MRI brain scan while being shown pictures of various low- or high-calorie foods such as salad, fish and vegetables or chocolate, cake and pizza. Participants who drank the milk shake containing the supplement had less activity in areas of their brain linked to reward and food cravings when they looked at high-calorie foods, and rated high- calorie foods as less appealing. When given a bowl of pasta and asked to eat as much as they like, participants who drank the supplement ate 10 per cent less than when they drank the milk shake that contained inulin alone.

Professor Gary Frost, senior author of the study from the department of medicine at Imperial College, says eating enough fibre to naturally produce similar amounts of propionate would be difficult. You’d need to eat about 60 grams of fibre a day (equivalent to about 12 cups of boiled broccoli).