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My Pasta Bowl Overfloweth

No surprise: Italians have highest starch levels in Europe

When you think of an Italian dinner, what comes to mind? Possibly long, crusty loaves of bread and steaming bowls of pasta. In other words, lots of starch.

But do they really eat that way in Italy? Just ask the department of food science and microbiology at the University of Milan in Milano.

According to a 1998 report in the British Journal of Nutrition, researchers compared the amount of resistant starch in the typical Italian with the level of resistant starch in people from other European countries. That's the amount of starch that doesn't get digested, but makes it's way into the large intestine.

While the level of resistant starch in most of Europe is 4 grams each day, the starch levels in Italy were more than twice as high. In southern Italy, where the amount of pasta in the diet is highest, the levels of starch in the intestine came to over 9 grams daily.

Yes, that's too much starch. On a related note, the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri of Milan, Italy, reported in the December 1999 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that high intakes of refined cereal, such as bread and pasta, are associated with diseases of the intestines. The researchers recommended that to stay healthy, Italians should eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

But pasta tastes so good!

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