Could last night’s pasta dish be better for you than you first thought? This week's Nutrition News covers the latest in nutritional research, including how our favourite carbohydrate could provide some important health benefits.

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The health benefits of pasta

Pasta is typically regarded as a slightly indulgent comfort food but this bad reputation could be misplaced when, in fact, it could promote gut health and hold other health benefits. A recent study, discussed in the article “Why allowing your pasta to cool could boost its health benefits” by Stylist, challenges the notion that pasta consumption might lead to adverse health effects, including unwanted weight gain, based on a comprehensive analysis of 38 different studies. Instead, it suggests that pasta can be a part of a healthy diet.

The study's findings reveal that pasta boasts a lower glycaemic index compared to other refined carbohydrates, potentially benefitting gut health. While indulging in cheesy pasta every night may not be the best idea for weight management, there are ways to enjoy pasta without compromising health. One approach is to let your pasta cool before eating it. The cooling process has a remarkable effect on pasta's starch. Uncooked pasta contains resistant starch, a form of carbohydrate challenging for digestive enzymes to break down into glucose. Cooking transforms this resistant starch into a more digestible form, causing a spike in blood sugar levels.

However, the good news, according to the article, is that this transformation is reversible. As pasta cools, the carbs in it reorganize back into resistant starch, making it friendlier to blood sugar. Moreover, resistant starch survives the digestive journey and becomes fuel for gut bacteria in the colon, supporting gut health.

If you're not a fan of cold pasta, there's still hope. A 2020 study, titled “The cumulative effects of chilling and reheating a carbohydrate-based pasta meal on the postprandial glycaemic response”, in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that reheating chilled pasta produces a smaller blood sugar spike than freshly cooked or simply cooled pasta, making your leftover spaghetti healthier with a quick microwave zap.

So, the next time you crave pasta, consider trying it cold or reheating it from the fridge for added health benefits.

Third of Britons deficient in vitamin D

A concerning revelation from a recent study review conducted by the Health & Food Supplements Information Service (HSIS), discussed in the article “A third of Brits are vitamin D deficient according to new research review” sheds light on the current state of vitamin D deficiency in the UK. The review indicates that as many as one-third of the British population lacks sufficient levels of this vital nutrient. To put this into perspective of the 200,000+ individuals who underwent vitamin D testing, approximately 33% exhibited deficiency, which is defined as having blood levels below 30 nmol/litre.

Vitamin D, often referred to as the "sunshine vitamin," has long been recognised for its essential role in promoting overall health and wellbeing. The study points to an alarming disparity between the UK's recommended daily dose of 10 mcg and the levels recommended by Europe and the US, which aim for a minimum of 50 nmol/litre. To achieve this higher target, HSIS GP and study co-author, Dr. Nisa Aslam, suggests that a daily intake of 25 mcg of vitamin D is necessary for 97.5% of the UK population.

The consequences of vitamin D deficiency are far-reaching. Beyond impacting bone health, it can render individuals vulnerable to conditions like nutritional rickets, osteomalacia, autoimmune disorders (such as type 1 diabetes), gastrointestinal problems, and respiratory issues.

Dietary sources of vitamin D are limited, with oily fish requiring frequent consumption to meet the daily recommended intake, and northern hemisphere countries, like the UK, can struggle to achieve adequate sunshine, especially during the winter months.

The importance of nationwide awareness and supplementation is underscored by one of the study’s authors Dr. Aslam, who stresses that this approach of increasing supplementation recommendations would significantly reduce the risk of deficiency, offering a cost-effective solution that could also lead to potential savings for the NHS. Encouraging the entire UK population to adopt the recommended 10-mcg daily supplement is a crucial step toward addressing this widespread issue and ensuring the well-being of individuals across all age groups.

The benefits of magnesium

Magnesium, an essential mineral vital for overall health delivers a multitude of potential benefits. Extensive research, as reported in the recent Forbes article “7 Expert-Backed Benefits Of Magnesium”  indicates that magnesium can enhance sleep quality, aid stress management, and support heart and bone health.

This indispensable mineral, involved in over 300 enzyme activities in the body, plays a pivotal role in maintaining normal energy-yielding metabolism, a reduction of tiredness and fatigue, normal muscle function, and protein synthesis. It's naturally present in nutrient-rich foods, such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Mental health benefits are another facet of magnesium's impact as it contributes to normal psychological function. It is crucial for mental wellbeing, as a deficiency can lead to symptoms like mild anxiety and nervousness. Some studies suggest that magnesium supplementation may reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Magnesium is well known to support sleep, with research indicating that magnesium deficiency can disrupt sleep patterns, possibly contributing to insomnia. Preliminary studies have linked increased magnesium intake to better sleep quality and reduced daytime sleepiness.

Heart health is another area where magnesium shines, according to the article, as it may reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and contribute to normal cholesterol levels.

Furthermore, magnesium's role in bone health is vital, with a significant portion of it residing in bones. It may enhance bone density and reduce the risk of fractures.

It's essential to discuss supplementation with a doctor, especially if you're on other medications or have underlying health conditions, as excessive magnesium intake can lead to side effects like diarrhoea.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.