Enjoy that pasta salad: Noodles linked to lower BMI

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(CNN)A little bit of what’s irresistible is good for you, Italian scientists have discovered.

Their analysis of more than 23,000 people found that eating some pasta is associated with a lower body mass index. Those who enjoyed their noodles were less likely to be overweight and obese.
    “Our results are in agreement with a relatively recent study examining food and nutrient intakes in association with BMI in 1,794 United States middle-aged adults, showing that pasta intake among other food groups is negatively associated with BMI,” the researchers wrote.
    Their new research appeared in Nutrition and Diabetes just in time for Independence Day, with its pasta salads at picnics and barbecues.

    Pasta: An American tradition?

    Founding Father Thomas Jefferson loved pasta, according to the Library of Congress, which noted that macaroni was a fashionable food in Paris while he served as minister to France. In 1787, while traveling around Northern Italy, Jefferson drew a macaroni machine and commissioned his secretary to purchase one. Unfortunately, the temperamental instrument did not endure, so in his later years back in America, he (or rather, his cook) resorted to hand-rolling and cutting pasta in the long tradition of Italian grandmas.

    Eat

    Why not be proud? Research has showed that the Mediterranean diet, which includes generous portions of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and peas, unrefined grains, olive oil and fish, is associated with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke and slower brain aging.
    Since pasta remains part of the classic regional diet, an Italian team of researchers decided to explore its health effects, independent of all the other Mediterranean staples.

    Enjoy, but not too much

    To do this, they analyzed data from two groups of people: 14,402 random participants, 35 or older, from the Molise region (on the Adriatic coast of Italy about midway down the boot); and 8,964 random participants, 18 or older, from all over the nation.
    Amassing facts and figures, crunching numbers and then twirling the data like so much linguine, the team led by Dr. Licia Iacoviello of the IRCCS Istituto Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed soon discovered that pasta was not the big bad wolf within the food pyramid (as Americans like to think). Eating pasta helped both men and women stick to a healthy diet.
    That said, those who overate pasta did not fare so well.

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    “Both in women and men, the obese population was older and at lower socioeconomic status, had higher waist and hip circumferences and waist-to-hip ratio, and consumed more pasta (grams per day) than normal or overweight participants,” Iacoviello and her colleagues wrote. The researchers claim no conflicts of interest — short of loving good food.
    The researchers do not specify an amount of pasta that is ideal, but they looked at the data from enough angles to say there’s no link between eating pasta and high BMI.
    So feel free to enjoy a little of the obligatory macaroni salad during your Fourth of July celebration, as Jefferson would have wanted.

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