12 January - 20 June 2016

Reduce food consumption by reducing portion sizes - adults eat 92% of what is on their plate

30 July 14

Adults tend to eat almost all of the food they serve themselves, according to a new study which raises some interesting questions as to whether tactics such as portion control could help tackle our growing waistlines.

The paper reported on a Cornell University meta-analysis of 14 studies (with 1179 different subjects) looking at adults' and children's appetites. By noting what percentage of their food participants left on the plate after serving themselves then eating, the researchers sought to determine whether our eyes really are bigger than our bellies. They found that for those of 18 years and above (853 of the subjects) an average 91.66% of the food was consumed, calculated by dividing the average amount eaten (in grams) by the average amount served.

This percentage did not vary greatly between types of food, demographic group or with environmental differences such as type of venue and amount of distraction. The greatest deviations from the mean of 91.66% consumption were seen when snacking was considered separately from meal occasions (and 76.11% consumption was then observed) and when unitary, or discrete, foods were considered in isolation from "continuous" foods (71.76% average consumption compared to 92.96%). There was also some good news regarding healthy eating, in that average consumption of healthy foods was 91.19% and of unhealthy, 80.64%.

The remaining 326 participants were children between 4-17 years, and they only consumed an average 59.1% of the food on their plates. It was, however, noted in the paper's discussion that the majority of the children in these studies were relatively young, between 4-8 years; the substantially lower number could therefore be at least partly due to their inexperience in judging how hungry they were or how much they liked a particular food.

Whilst the meta-analysis was limited to studies of American and Canadian participants, to reduce variables, an article published on Cornell's website and written by the paper author Brian Wansink states that when "diners were analysed in 7 developed countries, the US, Canada, France, Taiwan, Korea, Finland and the Netherlands, the results were nearly identical".

This study provides interesting evidence of consumer behaviour surrounding "plate-clearing", though the authors caution that the scarcity of appropriate studies means the meta-analysis should be considered as a preliminary investigation rather than as comprehensive. Despite this caveat, the paper gives insight into a new aspect of developed country's eating behaviours, and potential pointers as to how people's diets could be influenced in the future. [Cornell University, ConsumerAffairs.Com]

share this article
RSSL endeavours to check the veracity of news stories cited in this free e-mail bulletin by referring to the primary source, but cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies in the articles so published. RSSL provides links to other World Wide Web sites as a convenience to users, but cannot be held responsible for the content or availability of these sites. This document may be copied and distributed provided the source is cited as RSSL's Food e-News and the information so distributed is not used for profit.

Previous editions

Load more editions

Make an Enquiry