Whole-grain pasta reduces appetite and meal-induced thermogenesis acutely: a pilot study.

Cioffi I1, Santarpia L1, Vaccaro A1, Iacone R1, Labruna G2, Marra M1, Contaldo F1,3, Kristensen M4, Pasanisi F1,3
  • Internal Medicine and Clinical Nutrition Unit, Federico II University Hospital, 80131 Naples, Italy.
  • 2 IRCCS SDN, 80143 Naples, Italy; CEINGE-Biotecnologie Avanzate, 80145 Naples, Italy.
  • 3 Interuniversity Center for Obesity and Eating disorders (CISRO), Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, Federico II University Hospital, 80131 Naples, Italy.
  • 4 Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Copenhagen, Denmark.


In epidemiological studies, the intake of foods rich in dietary fiber is associated with a reduced risk of developing overweight and type 2 diabetes. This work aims to identify acute strategies to regulate appetite and improve glucose control by using different pasta meals. Hence, 4 different isocaloric lunch meals, consisting of (i) refined-grain pasta (RG+T), (ii) whole-grain pasta (WG+T), (iii) lemon juice-supplemented refined-grain pasta (LRG+T), and (iv) refined-grain pasta with legumes (RG+L), were administered to 8 healthy participants in a crossover design. On the test days, participants underwent baseline measurements, including appetite sensation, blood sample, and resting energy expenditure (EE), after which the test lunch was served. Subjective appetite was assessed and a blood sample was taken each hour for 240 min, and postprandial EE was measured for 3 h. In repeated-measures analysis of covariance (ANCOVA), postprandial fullness (p = 0.001) increased and hunger (p = 0.038) decreased. WG+T had a lower EE than did both LGR+T (p = 0.02) and RG+L (p < 0.001). Likewise, meal-induced thermogenesis was lower for WG+T compared with RG+L (58 ± 81 kJ vs 248 ± 188 kJ; p < 0.05). Plasma glucose (p = 0.001) was lower for RG+T, and triacylglycerols (p = 0.02) increased for LRG+T; however, insulin, C-peptide, and ghrelin were comparable in all other meals. In conclusion, our study indicates that acute consumption of whole-grain pasta may promote fullness and reduce hunger, lowering postprandial thermogenesis, and adding lemon juice to the pasta or legumes does not appear to affect appetite. However, none of pasta meal alterations improved the postprandial metabolic profile.


fullness; glucose metabolism; legumes; légumineuses; meal-induced thermogenesis; métabolisme du glucose; plénitude; pâtes à base de grains entiers; thermogenèse d’origine alimentaire; whole-grain pasta

PMID: 26863235



Among cereal products, pasta is widely consumed in Italy, particularly in the south, representing the main source of resistant starch. Pasta is characterized by a low glycemic index (GI) and whole grain (WG) pasta provides a good source of dietary fiber, oligosaccharides and other nutritionally bioactive compounds (phenolic acids, alkylresorcinols, and flavonoids). Actually, WG food consumption, due to their higher dietary fiber content, may reduce short-term appetite and potentially improve glucose metabolism and meal-induced thermogenesis (MIT).

Our project was focused on the health-promoting effect of four different type of meals based on Italian pasta, produced in Gragnano, Naples, Italy and classified as Protect Geographical Indication (PGI), according to strict regulations on how and where it is produced. We tested refined-grain pasta (RG+T), whole-grain pasta (WG+T), pasta enriched with lemon juice (LRG+T) and a mixed meal that consisted of refined pasta plus legumes, specifically brown beans (RG+L) in a group of healthy volunteers. The hypothesis was that replacing RG+T with one of those “alternative meals” would have positively affected appetite sensation and glucose metabolism in the post-prandial phase.

Our results showed that only WG+T increased fullness and decreased hunger sensation compared to RG+T in normal-weight participants. Additionally, WG+T significantly reduced MIT compared to RG+L while no effect was reported on glucose metabolism by different meals (1). Interestingly, we found similar results on appetite sensation testing the same WG pasta in overweight and obese participants who lived in Copenhagen, Denmark (2).

Although we knew that WG pasta is not usually consumed in Italy, it was well accepted among participants compared to other meals as reported by the palatability test. Although this is a pilot study conducted in a small sample size, the effects of WG pasta on appetite sensation and energy expenditure appear to be promising and deserve further investigation.


  1. Cioffi I, Santarpia L, Vaccaro A, Iacone R, Labruna G, Marra M, Contaldo F, Kristensen M, Pasanisi F. 2016Whole-grain pasta reduces appetite and meal-induced thermogenesis acutely: a pilot study. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 41(3):277-83
  2. Cioffi I, Ibrugger S, Bache J, Thomassen MT, Contaldo F, Pasanisi F, Kristensen M. Effects on satiation, satiety and food intake of wholegrain and refined grain pasta. Appetite. 2;107:152-158

Acknowledgement: This study was supported by POR CAMPANIA FSE 2007/2013, Project CARINA.