Pasta consumption associated with better diet quality and nutrient intakes

Good news for pasta eaters! New research published in Frontiers in Nutrition this month, analyzing the diets of adults and children who eat pasta, has revealed good news about one of America's favorite foods. The research found that pasta consumption in both children and adults is associated with a better diet quality and better nutrient intakes than that of those adults and children who do not eat pasta.

Furthermore, when evaluating weight parameters, no associations were observed in male adults and children. In adult women however, pasta-eaters showed a beneficial weight-related outcome. Pasta consumption in adult females was associated with reduced waist circumference, body weight and body mass index (BMI).

The research, "Pasta Consumption is Linked to Greater Nutrient Intakes and Improved Diet Quality in American Children and Adults, and Beneficial Weight-Related Outcomes Only in Adult Females" was conducted by Nutritional Strategies, Inc. on behalf of the National Pasta Association. The study examined associations between pasta consumption, shortfall nutrient intakes as defined by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines (2015 DG) and diet quality in comparison to non-pasta consumption in the U.S. population (children (ages 2-18) and adults (> 19 years). Pasta consumption was defined as all dry domestic and imported pasta/noodle varieties made with only wheat and no egg.

From the analysis, researchers identified a number of key positive nutritional dietary patterns associated with those who eat pasta as part of their diet compared to those who don't eat pasta. They are:

- Better overall diet quality (as measured by USDA's Healthy Eating Index-2010 scale)

- Greater intake of key shortfall nutrients

  • a. In adults these were: folate, iron, magnesium, and dietary fiber
  • b. In children these were: folate, iron, magnesium, dietary fiber and vitamin E

- Lower daily intakes

  • a. Saturated fat and added sugars in adults
  • b. Saturated fat and total fat in children

- No differences were seen in total daily calories and sodium intake.

- No significant associations were seen with body weight, waist circumference and body mass index in children and adult males. In adult women (19 -50 years), pasta eating was associated with lower body weight and waist circumference.

Pasta is a convenient, nutritious, easy-to-prepare meal for both young and old and pleases even the pickiest of eaters. It has long been celebrated as one of America's favorite foods and is advocated by nutritionists for its good nutrition.

Pasta can be an effective building block for good nutrition throughout the lifecycle, as it serves as a perfect delivery system for fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish and legumes. Think of pasta as a canvas from which you can add almost any nutrient-dense, fiber-rich food you and your family like, to create memorable and delicious meals. This analysis underscores the nutritional importance of grains, such as pasta, as consistent with a healthy diet. It shows that pasta eaters have better quality diets than those who don't eat pasta."

Diane Welland, Registered Dietitian, Director of Nutrition Communications for the National Pasta Association

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