There’s a totally scientific excuse for you to travel to Italy — and it’s absolutely delicious. New research published in the Nutrition & Diabetes journal suggests that people who enjoy eating pasta weigh less.
A team from the IRCCS Istituo Neurologico Mediterraneo Neuromed analyzed more than 23,000 people from Italy (14,402 from the Molise region on the Adriatic Coast and nearly 9,000 from across the country). Results, published this month, suggest that both men and women who enjoyed pasta as part of a regular Mediterranean diet (that is, along with fresh vegetables like tomatoes and onions, legumes, seafood, and olive oil) had a lower body mass index, smaller waist circumference, and lower waist-to-hip ratio.
“[Pasta] has been, since ancient times ... considered as one of the Mediterranean diet’s traditional components,” wrote the team. "Our [analysis] of data from two different Mediterranean populations supports that pasta intake is negatively associated with both indexes of obesity status and prevalence of overweight and obesity.”
In other words: twirl all the spaghetti con ricci di mare (a revelation of spaghetti, olive oil, sea urchin, and roasted tomato) you want (we recommend doing so on the Amalfi Coast). Or order two plates of the mortadella-stuffed tortellini in a Parmesan Reggiano cream sauce at the best restaurant in the world, in Modena, Italy.
Of course, as CNN noted, those who consumed too much pasta, per grams per day, were overweight — though researchers indicated a strong correlation between overweight subjects and both a lower socioeconomic status as well as old age.
Skeptical? You can always try hiking a few hours for thin sheets of lasagna with pesto in the beachside town of San Fruttuoso, on the Italian Riviera. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether or not traditional Neapolitan pizza will slim your waistline. But we’re willing to take our chances.
Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.