“Italy loses its taste for pasta”


Italy has lost its taste for pasta, the Wall Street Journal reports. Pasta sales dropped by a whopping 23% in the past decade. The main explanation is said to be that a growing number of people see pasta as a fattening food:

Wall Street Journal: Italy Loses Its Taste for Pasta

Very smart.


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  1. FrankG
    No more Spaghetti harvest in Ticino?!?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVo_wkxH9dU :-)
    Reply: #2
  2. Zepp
    And how about the macaroni harvest?
    Reply: #3
  3. FrankG
    I hear you have to be careful how you harvest them, or you might end up with macaroni elbow :-P
  4. eddy
    I do eat pasta, oooh soooo good and so tasty, I have whole wheat only pasta, Pasta made with feta cheese, pasta with butternut squash, ooh so good, I lather my pasta with fresh made hummus and parmesan cheese and a dash of pepper.

    I don't have any problems with gluten or allergies to wheat and other grains so I indulge every so often I also have with a nice glass of red wine. It is part of my high fat Mediterranean diet.

    Everything in moderation is the key. I believe for a diet to work it has to be sustainable.

  5. Martin
    They shouldn't worry, because according to Holt, Brand-Miller and Petocz (1997) the insulin release from white pasta (4456 insulin AUC pmol) is less than Beef (7910) and Fish (9350). This was corroborated by Bao, Jong, Atkinson, Petocz and Brand-Miller (2009) as a composite meal with lentils (9268), another oddly low-insulin carb-rich food.

    If the assumption is that insulin drives fat gain then pasta, with its paradoxically low insulin spike, shouldn't make people fat. That said, two points on Holt et al. (1997): 1. They measured after a 1000kj serve only, so 1000kj of pasta vs. 1000kj beef vs. 1000kj fish etc. 2. In practice, Europeans eat smaller serves of pasta than would be served in most Anglophone countries, and they soak it in insulin lowering fat (i.e. olive oil) and vinegar, further blunting the response.

    Replies: #8, #11
  6. Michelle
    I lived in Italy for over a year 20 years ago and even then the lady I worked for (a high ranking oncologist) had a saying when she wanted to lose weight: 'Basta con la Pasta.'
  7. FrankG
    "Everything in moderation is the key. I believe for a diet to work it has to be sustainable."

    I believe for a platitude to work it has to be credible...

    "Moderation" is clearly NOT the "key" for someone who is gluten intolerant, or has allergies, or IBS, or as in my case, carbohydrate intolerance. Is a "moderate" dose of arsenic (a perfectly natural substance) good for anyone?

    The LCHF food which I habitually eat and have done so for 5+ years no (my diet in other words) IS sustainable and makes a great deal of sense for me. Good luck with whatever you decide is best for you but please spare us the unhelpful platitudes :-)

  8. FrankG

    They shouldn't worry, because according to Holt, Brand-Miller and Petocz (1997) the insulin release from white pasta (4456 insulin AUC pmol) is less than Beef (7910) and Fish (9350)....

    Even if that is so, do people eat pasta by itself? And does this study compare a regular serving of pasta with a regular serving of beef or fish?

    Is this the one? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9356547 Looks like they used isocaloric portions? Is that a reasonable representation of how people eat pasta, meat and fish?

    and they soak it in insulin lowering fat (i.e. olive oil) and vinegar, further blunting the response.

    How exactly does olive oil lower the levels of insulin? There is some potential for fat in food to slow the digestion and release of carbohydrates from the food but that does not change the total amount of carbohydrate in the food. Ask the question on a diabetes forum and common advice with something like pizza or lasagna for example, is that: you may need to stagger your meal-time "bolus" insulin shot to allow for the delayed rise in BG. It may be later but it still comes along. I am not aware of any foods which lower insulin levels by eating them?

    Replies: #10, #14
  9. Jan C
    I haven't been to Italy for about ten years, but it was noticeable then that the young people were lovely and thin but as people aged, particularly the women, they got fatter. Having said that, I didn't see any severely overweight people. Pasta is eaten as a separate course and is not necessarily a large helping. In Spain it's much the same, although I've seen more overweight people in the poorer areas. Both countries have lots of good markets selling fresh produce. Meat and fish feature in both diets, including smoked meats in Spain particularly. And of course lots of olive oil - it's not a low-fat diet. Neither is the Med diet low in meat and mostly pasta/rice. And I've never seen a whole grain in either Italy or Spain. But junk food is also available in the supermarkets. Not so much ready meals, from what I noticed, but lots of baked goods, snacks etc. and lots of low-fat yogurts, but they also sell lots of their own traditional cheeses etc, and nuts for snacks as well. Sugary drinks/sodas are also ubiquitous.
  10. FrankG

    ...you may need to stagger your meal-time "bolus" insulin shot...

    Just to add, this is such a recognised phenomenon that Insulin Pumps (continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion) have settings which allow their user to specify the total insulin bolus, as required to balance the meal but instead of infusing it immediately, to give a certain percentage up front and the rest slowly (or in steps) in various patterns or curves over the coming hour, two, or even longer. It makes sense to me that if this helps to keep the BG stable (and at close to normal levels) then it must be close to what the pancreas does in an healthy person.

    I guess arguably, it might be posited that eating fat with your carbs actually prolongs the time during which your insulin levels are raised above baseline.

  11. Zepp
    What was the glukagon releas of those food subjects!

    Without that measured its no good science and don explain anything!

    But you dont have to struggle to fins that data anyhow.. becuse its irelevant!

    You know whitout insulin secretion to food you wold die!

    Soo its not the problem.. its hyperinsulinemia and hyperglycemia thats the problem!

    Figure out what to eat to get those conditions?

    I can give you a hint!!

    Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. Teens Has Diabetes or Prediabetes

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    Read more: Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. Teens Has Diabetes or Prediabetes | TIME.com http://healthland.time.com/2012/05/21/nearly-1-in-4-u-s-teens-have-di...

    Individuals, including non-diabetics, are 69% more likely to develop ischemic cardiovascular disease if glucose levels in their blood are slightly elevated, say researchers.


  12. Ondrej
    Astute Wall Street Journal readers noted and commented:

    "Jon Nelson Wrote:

    According to the article the average Italian family consumed 88 lbs. of pasta per year 10 years ago.

    Let's see: 88 lbs. of pasta x 600 Kcal/Lb. = 52,000 Kcal.

    Presuming the average Italian family consisted of 2.5 persons, then each person then ate 20,800 calories of pasta per year.

    A family of 2.5 persons, each individual of which consumes 2,000 Kcal/day,.will consume 5,000 Kcal x 365 = 1,825,000 Kcal, year. 10 years ago, the average Italian family obtained 0.03% of its caloric intake from pasta.

    This article needs to be researched as it is preposterous.
    2 Recommendations

    19 days ago
    KARL GEIGER Replied:

    Hmm. 105 grams dried elbow macaroni is 390 Kcal. There are 454 g/lb, so multiply 390 * 454/105 = 1686 Kcal/lb for pasta.

    It's still a ludicrously low number when computed against a year's caloric intake. 1686 Kcal is *almost* the recommended 2000 Kcal, so that's 88 days of dietary Calories per year. For one person.

    We're gonna need some olive oil to pad out that pasta.
    1 Recommendation
    Track Replies to this Comment

    19 days ago
    Jon Nelson Replied:

    Karl, I accept your figures. If the facts alleged about pasta consumption in the article are true, then a person in an average 2.5. person Italian family consumed enough pasta for 32 days of caloric intake. This means that he/she obtained 1/12 of his/her calories from pasta. And this was 10 years ago!
    1 Recommendatio

    Kirth Gersen Replied:

    Math meets anecdote ... math & reason triumph;-)

    19 days ago

    Marcel Gillander Wrote:

    The article seems to be just another attempt by the multinational agro-alimentary industry to destroy traditional local food. The article does not investigate the question whether Pasta really is fattening, nor does it compare obesity rates of apparently health conscious US with Italy - or data about longevity.You only need flour and eggs - and maybe a zest of olive oil - to produce your own delicious pasta, a real nightmare for manufacturers of ready packed meals."

    Last comment was the best!

  13. FrankG
    "Ten years ago, Italian families ate an average of 40 kilograms, or 88 pounds, a year. But now Italians are spurning Italy's comfort food as foreign cuisine finally gains a toehold in Italy. Italians—particularly women—increasingly see pasta as fattening, boring and time-consuming. Pasta consumption in Italy has fallen to 31 kilos (70.6 pounds) per family, sending everyone from pasta makers to cookbook publishers scrambling to adjust."

    "Italian families ate an average".. how about we take the total number of families in Italy and divide up the total pasta eaten, by that number -- try the math again, this time recognising that not ALL Italian families ate the same amount of pasta, if any at all... oops!

    Considering that the article then goes on to discuss the situation with one of the biggest manufacturers of pasta in Italy, do you really suppose that the manufacturer would not be clued in to the actual numbers?

    Time to slink back under your rock and accept that your relatively slim Italians despite eating pasta argument, is just an old set of clothes stuffed with straw... a man out standing in his field LOL

  14. Martin
    @FrankG: "Is this the one?" Yes. "Looks like they used isocaloric portions?" Yes. "How exactly does olive oil lower the levels of insulin?" You were right to call me on this, and I've benefited from thinking more about it.

    So the two studies from above, Holt et al (1997) and Bao et al (2009), show correlations of r=-.27 and r=-.6 between fat and insulin. However, direct research of meals makes me sceptical. One study shows no total reduction in insulin, just a smoothing of the big insulin spike (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/69/6/1135.long). Another shows increase with T2 diabetics (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/77/3/605.long). This older study shows no difference (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/37/6/941.long). So the negative correlations above are probably just due to a confounding variable, such as low-carb foods generally being higher in fat.

    As for the other stuff, I think we're talking past each other. I was speaking in terms of endogenous insulin promoting fat gain. A lot of what you wrote seems to be about managing glucose and insulin injections for diabetics, which is another interesting topic. I wasn’t sure what to make of Zepp’s comment.

    Reply: #15
  15. FrankG
    Sure thing Martin: if you ate more fat at a meal of real whole foods, I would expect that your intake of carbs will proportionality be lower, with a resulting overall lower BG and reduced need for insulin but looking at foods high in sugar and/or refined starches such as pizza (even "wholegrain") or lasagna, it seems nowadays this is not the case... the carefully designed "taste" of many modern foods may encourage us to eat initially, until we are full at least; nonetheless, something about the sugar and/or refined starches seems to drive the body towards eating beyond what we may have naturally done otherwise. Palatable food may encourage a person to eat it but only when they're hungry... after which that drive quickly falls off... so something else must be keeping us eating beyond being full.

    My primary suspect is (as you say) the action of insulin promoting fat storage, tying up that energy; thus leaving the person still "hungry" at the cellular level. It also seems likely to me that once the insulin is at a given threshold level, it has this effect... regardless of whether that level may be lower than it might have been if there was less or no fat in the meal.. the insulin has still passed the threshold -- this is why I particularly picked up on the idea that eating olive oil could somehow lower the insulin level. And as I suggested above: such a meal could maintain that raised insulin level for even longer, thus promoting even greater fat storage.

    Over time (weeks, months, years), I am convinced that: as Insulin Resistance ramps up, even the baseline insulin levels (between meals) may be gradually raised until they are also above this threshold more and more of the time. Increased IR -> higher baseline insulin -> increased IR and so on... until the pancreas burns out from the the effort.

    My suggestion is based on my own experience as Type 2 Diabetic (and discussed with many others on Diabetes forums) including several months of basal + bolus insulin injections and several years using an insulin pump (CSII). All the while keeping extensive records of multiple BG finger-stick tests (up to 12 frequently or even 20 tests on some days) alongside my insulin usage. As the researchers stated in the abstract I linked just above "Overall, glucose and insulin scores were highly correlated (r = 0.70, P < 0.001, n = 38). " So I think the experience of Diabetics with BG records, especially if paired with exogenous insulin, is very pertinent to what happens eating those same foods for a normal healthy person. If I were to go out for pizza I'd surely be close to replicating what was going on around me for my normal healthy companions -- even if not in absolute quantity of insulin, at least in the relative levels.

    Needless to say, I no longer eat pizza (not even "wholegrain") but instead have adopted the approach of eating so as to minimise my need for insulin. To that end, LCHF works very well and has improved all my health markers along the way. I no longer need to use the insulin pump no any bolus (mealtime) insulin injections and my BG (along with hunger, energy and mood) has become very much more stable and predictable.

  16. FrankG
    As to what leads to increased IR and the resulting increased insulin to overcome it: that is an interesting topic and one which I am not clear has yet been completely resolved.

    Some argue that it is simply due to excess energy or an higher level of free fatty acids in the blood, and sure these may help to increase IR but are these cause or effect.. which came first? WHY is there is excess energy or increased FFAs in the blood... I'd suggest it is because of the scenario I described in my previous comment

    Chicken or egg... which came first? i don't find the "excess energy" argument very convincing as the proximal cause because it fails to answer WHY I overate in the first place. Higher insulin levels could explain that WHY.

    It also make sense to me that IR is a down-regulation mechanism: similar to how people living alongside a busy road tend, over time, to no longer hear the traffic noise -- some to the extent that if they travel away to a quieter area cannot sleep. Keep the insulin levels high enough (with a ready supply of sugar and/or refined starches - perhaps helped out by fat to maintain the effect even longer) for sufficient time and I'll bet you find you need to use more insulin to elicit the same response as previously. This becomes the vicious cycle where higher insulin levels, leads to increased IR, leads to higher insulin levels, leads to increased IR and so on...

  17. FrankG
    Apologies Martin I may have misrepresented your position - that was not my intention but perhaps my cognitive bias was showing :-) .. you wrote "I was speaking in terms of endogenous insulin promoting fat gain." and I referred to that later with "My primary suspect is (as you say) the action of insulin promoting fat storage..."

    I realise now that you may have been referring to this idea in general terms, as something included in your discussion, without necessarily agreeing that this is what insulin does.

  18. 1 comment removed
  19. FrankG
    "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." ~ Abraham Lincoln

    LMAOROTF indeed :-P

  20. Maggan A


  21. Karen Scribner
    When you read Eat Pray Love you will see her write about the 1/3 of Italian school children that are "allergic" to wheat. Of course that is the modern, hybrid wheat which is all that is available in most of the world.
  22. Roger
    Why not neutralize the calories of pasta with anti-pasta?
  23. Joe Bellantuono
    I have family in Italy they actually eat mostly fish, olive oil, vegetables, some fruit. Pasta and pizza are only occasional snacks.
  24. Musa
    Is it true back in the days, Italian men use to feed their woman Pasta to make them fat, to make them unattractive to Moore's men back when Italy was at war with them? I was told this long time ago by an Italian friend. Do anybody know about this?

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