Bread and pasta, what is best to combat hyperglycemia and weight gain? Perhaps, at first glance, we are led to answer that there is no difference, since they are carbohydrates made from the same raw material, flour. Yet the difference exists and leads to the affirmation that between the two, for the purpose of controlling blood sugar and accumulating fat, pasta is better. Even better, long pasta like spaghetti. But why this statement? The answer is provided by a very recent research published in The Journal of Nutrition by a Finnish team (Vanhatalo et al, J Nutr, 2022).
Long pasta has a lower glycemic index, the study
The research studied the impact on glycemia of four products, all made from durum wheat, namely two pasta formats, one long, spaghetti, and one short, penne, bread and couscous. The raw material, as mentioned, in all cases is the same, durum wheat. What changes is the production process that determines the different glycemic response to the ingestion of these foods. The result is that pasta requires slower digestion and this is reflected in a lower glycemic index and a lower blood sugar increase than other products, namely bread and couscous. In particular, during the formation of the pasta, the extrusion process, which consists in passing the dough through a cylinder that determines its shape and length, leads to the formation of a protective film, which in turn slows down the digestion of starches and reduces the blood sugar peak that follows the ingestion of pasta. Not only that, it has been observed that spaghetti pasta has a lower glycemic index than penne, thus causing less blood sugar to rise once ingested. As reported by the authors of the study, it is believed that the different glycemic index of the pasta formats is due to the different production processes to which spaghetti and penne are subjected, which determine a different microstructure. The result is that the starches in spaghetti are more compact, and therefore more difficult to digest, while in the penne there is more air between the starches.
Therefore, carbohydrates are not all the same and the different production processes modify the blood sugar response of our body. Do we want or need to keep blood sugar under control? We should therefore prefer long-format pasta, which brings energy, essential for life, but has a lower glycemic index and also helps to keep body weight under control. In fact, studies have shown that high glycemic index foods increase body weight, fat mass and waist circumference (Hare Bruun et al, Am J Clin Nutr, 2006).