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Italian scientists have invented a type of pasta that might help prevent heart attacks

When it comes to versatility and variety (not to mention sheer quality), there's pretty much no rival to glorious pasta. Whether you're talking about the simple types like spaghetti, fusilli or linguine, or drooling over more complex concoctions like gnocchi, lasagne or tortelloni, there's a wide range of pastas to please the palate of any person.

Of course, this stable staple is a fantastic way to gain a significant burst of energy right when you need. It's rich in carbohydrates, and while it's healthiest as part of a balanced diet, your average pasta contains a whole lot of protein and fiber as well, meaning you don't have to eat as much as you would of rice or bread to feel satisfied.

However, I always think that there's room for improvement, and scientists from Italy, the home of pasta, may have worked out a way to make our favorite food even better. Out in Tuscany at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, scientists combined your standard durum wheat flour with some wholegrain barley flour.

What does that mean? Well, wholegrain barley flour is rich in a fiber known as beta-glucan, which is pretty good for promoting the growth of new blood vessels. Here comes the good part: those new blood vessels will, in theory, form natural bypasses around any symptoms of heart disease, reducing the pasta-eater's risk of suffering a heart attack.

Sounds good, but does it actually work? To find out, the scientists tested their new pasta on a group of laboratory mice, feeding them the good stuff before inducing a cardiac arrest. They found that the mice that had chowed down on the new pasta beforehand survived the cardiac arrest in way greater numbers than the mice that did not.

Not only that, the Italian scientists also observed that the mice who had eaten the barley pasta sustained less damage to their hearts as a result of the cardiac arrest. Unsurprisingly, the scientists were delighted with the results of the experiments, and in a report posted on the website Scientific Reports, study lead Prof Vincenzo Lionetti said their new pasta "makes the body more resistant to stress and to coronary artery disease".

"It’s the first time that the formation of natural bypasses was encouraged via functional food, [in this case] pasta with barley beta-glucan. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to show that a sustained dietary intake of pasta enriched with [beta-glucan] safely increases coronary collaterals…and reduces mortality."

Prof Lionetti also noted that the new pasta could be a non-invasive way of improving overall heart health, saying: "techniques to promote collateral artery growth required surgical treatments, the use of stem cells extracted from bone marrow or gene therapy".

Of course, this new form of pasta has only been tested on mice so far, but hopefully the results of that experiment will mean that we won't be too far from seeing this new pasta on our shelves, as well as in our plates.