April 3 (UPI) -- When losing weight, people are often urged to cut the amount of carbohydrates in their diet. But a study has found that eating pasta may not contribute to weight gain or extra body fat.
Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto based their findings on a meta-analysis of available evidence from previous randomized controlled trials. Their research was published Tuesday in the journal BMJ Open.
"Much of the attention has focused on sugars, but traditional carbohydrate staples like pasta, rice and breads are increasingly being implicated in the epidemics of overweight and obesity," the researchers wrote in the study.
"Although systematic reviews and meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials of dietary patterns that include these foods but are low in glycemic index, high in whole grains and/or high in dietary fiber have shown advantages for weight-related outcomes, there has been a general lack of recognition of the importance of carbohydrate quality."
The researchers examined 32 randomized controlled trials involving 2,448 participants who ate pasta instead of other carbohydrates in a healthy low-glycemic index diet. The median age of participants was 50, with a body mass index of 30.4. In 21 trials, they included participants who were overweight or obese.
The participants had an average of 3.3 servings of cooked pasta per week -- about one-half cup -- instead of other carbohydrates. Over 12 weeks, they lost about 1 pound. In addition, their body mass index dropped by 0.26 kg.
"The study found that pasta didn't contribute to weight gain or increase in body fat," Dr. John Sievenpiper, a clinician scientist with the hospital's Clinical Nutrition and Risk Modification Center and lead author of the study, said in a press release. "In fact, analysis actually showed a small weight loss. So, contrary to concerns, perhaps pasta can be part of a healthy diet such as a low GI diet."
The researchers cautioned that pasta was consumed along with other low-glycemic index foods.
"In weighing the evidence, we can now say with some confidence that pasta does not have an adverse effect on body weight outcomes when it is consumed as part of a healthy dietary pattern," Sievenpiper said.
Researchers said they would like to see if eating pasta as part of other healthy diets also will lead to weigh loss.