Effect of pasta in the context of low-glycaemic index dietary patterns on body weight and markers of adiposity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials in adults

BMJ Open. 2018 Apr 2;8(3):e019438. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-019438.


Objective: Carbohydrate staples such as pasta have been implicated in the obesity epidemic. It is unclear whether pasta contributes to weight gain or like other low-glycaemic index (GI) foods contributes to weight loss. We synthesised the evidence of the effect of pasta on measures of adiposity.

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach.

Data sources: MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library were searched through 7 February 2017.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies: We included randomised controlled trials ≥3 weeks assessing the effect of pasta alone or in the context of low-GI dietary patterns on measures of global (body weight, body mass index (BMI), body fat) and regional (waist circumference (WC), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), sagittal abdominal diameter (SAD)) adiposity in adults.

Data extraction and synthesis: Two independent reviewers extracted data and assessed risk of bias. Data were pooled using the generic inverse-variance method and expressed as mean differences (MDs) with 95% CIs. Heterogeneity was assessed (Cochran Q statistic) and quantified (I2 statistic). GRADE assessed the certainty of the evidence.

Results: We identified no trial comparisons of the effect of pasta alone and 32 trial comparisons (n=2448 participants) of the effect of pasta in the context of low-GI dietary patterns. Pasta in the context of low-GI dietary patterns significantly reduced body weight (MD=-0.63 kg; 95% CI -0.84 to -0.42 kg) and BMI (MD=-0.26 kg/m2; 95% CI -0.36 to -0.16 kg/m2) compared with higher-GI dietary patterns. There was no effect on other measures of adiposity. The certainty of the evidence was graded as moderate for body weight, BMI, WHR and SAD and low for WC and body fat.

Conclusions: Pasta in the context of low-GI dietary patterns does not adversely affect adiposity and even reduces body weight and BMI compared with higher-GI dietary patterns. Future trials should assess the effect of pasta in the context of other 'healthy' dietary patterns.

Trial registration number: NCT02961088; Results.

Keywords: body weight; glycaemic index; glycemic index; pasta; systematic review and meta-analysis; weight loss.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Child
  • Diet
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Glycemic Index / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Weight Loss


  • Dietary Carbohydrates

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02961088

Grants and funding