When people ask me what my favorite place on earth is, I’ll tell them “The Internet.” It’s truly a magical space where people can come to escape their lives and beam themselves to planet delusia, and websites try to lure your clicks. Article headlines have become the new siren song. Sometimes you come across a headline that makes you give the Swaggy P. meme face and you’re just like “huh?” and you have to click.
Look no further than this article from Mic. I work with novel pharmaceuticals on a daily basis, and some of them are changing the face of how we treat awful diseases, so no Mic, this pasta study is not “the best science of 2016.” But you have my attention. If you’ve got a way for me to swap out my giant grilled chicken and kale salad that I’m currently scarfing down and replace it with some Tagliatelle Al Ragú, I’m all ears.
The article relays some information from a study published in Nutrition and Diabetes by researchers from the Neuromed Institute in Italy:
Study author George Pounis said in a press release, “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.”
So, instead of salmon and quinoa, I should be crushing sheets of lasagna a la Garfield? No, not if you actually read the study.
But before you go pound a giant bowl of cacio e pepe in the name of health, know that the link researchers found between pasta consumption and being healthy is based on people eating noodles as part of a Mediterranean diet. The diet, which is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world, consists mainly of olive oil, fish, vegetables and legumes, the Mayo Clinic noted. This means they weren’t pairing pasta with huge cuts of meat or overly creamy sauces (so step away from the fettuccine alfredo).
Portion sizes also played an important role in the study. Pasta was not consumed as the main part of a meal, but instead as a side. The largest noodle portion participants ate was 86 grams, which is about three ounces or a third of a cup. This is even smaller than the half-cup portion the United States Department of Agriculture recommends.
Dammit, science! You mean pasta is only associated with weight loss if I’m militantly strict on a Mediterranean diet and only eat a little bit of pasta as a microscopic side dish? That’s no fun at all. But am I surprised? Definitely not. Because it doesn’t take a study in a fucking peer-reviewed journal to tell me that eating a massive bowl of straight carbs isn’t good for me, but supplementing perhaps the healthiest diet on earth with a little bit of pasta won’t kill me. Good to know.
Because I like food and science, and love ripping on “scientific findings,” I went and actually read the study. It’s tough to get through. Lots of linear regressions and statistical mumbo jumbo I’m having trouble digesting. But from what I gather, here’s what Mic failed to report. They found a positive linear relationship between pasta intake and BMI, actually confirming what y’all already know, which is to say, the more pasta you eat daily, the fatter you’ll be. Duh.
They did prove that when pasta makes up only a small portion of your daily calorie consumption, and when your other calories are from staples of the Mediterranean diet (vegetables, fish, nuts, healthy fats), you’ll have a decent beach bod. So the next time you want to make some spaghetti, eat a giant plate of fish and veggies first, then eat less than three ounces of pasta for dessert. And make sure to Instagram it. Hashtag yum. Hashtag InstaFit. Hashtag fitfam. .