Pasta Structure Affects Mastication, Bolus Properties, and Postprandial Glucose and Insulin Metabolism in Healthy Adults

J Nutr. 2022 Apr;152(4):994-1005. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxab361. Epub 2023 Feb 18.


Background: Structure and protein-starch interactions in pasta products can be responsible for lower postprandial glycemic responses compared with other cereal foods.

Objectives: We tested the effect on postprandial glucose metabolism induced by 2 pasta products, couscous, and bread, through their structural changes during mastication and simulated gastric digestion.

Methods: Two randomized controlled trials (n = 30/trial) in healthy, normal-weight adults (mean BMI of 23.9 kg/m2 (study 1) and 23.0 kg/m2 (study 2)) evaluated postprandial glucose metabolism modulation to portions of durum wheat semolina spaghetti, penne, couscous, and bread each containing 50 g available carbohydrate. A mastication trial involving 26 normal-weight adults was conducted to investigate mastication processes and changes in particle size distribution and microstructure (light microscopy) of boluses after mastication and in vitro gastric digestion.

Results: Both pasta products resulted in lower areas under the 2-h curve for blood glucose (-40% for spaghetti and -22% for penne compared with couscous; -41% for spaghetti and -30% for penne compared with bread), compared with the other grain products (P < 0.05). Pasta products required more chews (spaghetti: 34 ± 18; penne: 38 ± 20; bread: 27 ± 13; couscous: 24 ± 17) and longer oral processing (spaghetti: 21 ± 13 s; penne: 23 ± 14 s; bread: 18 ± 9 s; couscous: 14 ± 10 s) compared with bread or couscous (P < 0.01). Pastas contained more large particles (46-67% of total particle area) compared with bread (0-30%) and couscous (1%) after mastication and in vitro gastric digestion. After in vitro gastric digestion, pasta samples still contained large areas of nonhydrolyzed starch embedded within the protein network; the protein in bread and couscous was almost entirely digested, and the starch was hydrolyzed.

Conclusions: Preservation of the pasta structure during mastication and gastric digestion explains slower starch hydrolysis and, consequently, lower postprandial glycemia compared with bread or couscous prepared from the same durum wheat semolina flour in healthy adults. The postprandial in vivo trials were registered at as NCT03098017 and NCT03104686.

Keywords: C-peptide response; glycemic response; insulin response; mastication; structure.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Bread
  • Glucose* / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin* / metabolism
  • Mastication*
  • Meals
  • Postprandial Period*
  • Starch / metabolism
  • Triticum / chemistry


  • Blood Glucose
  • Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Starch

Associated data